ACTON VALE, Que. -- Coloured balloons were released into an overcast sky on Saturday to mark the end of funeral services for three children found dead in a Quebec home last weekend.
The children's mother, Sonia Blanchette, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Lorelie,5, Loic, 4 and Anais, 2.
Patrick Desautels, the children's father, walked out of the church holding a portrait of his three kids. He looked sombre but composed as he slowly made his way to a waiting car. Another man carried a silver urn containing the children's remains.
A relative of Desautels said he was doing well under the circumstances. His aunt, France Malo, described the service as having "an enormous amount of emotion."
"He's surrounded by a lot of people who love him," she said. "It's a terrible loss."
His godfather, Serge Lamontagne, said he would "have to learn to live" with the tragedy.
There was little discussion of the circumstances of the deaths.
Louise Blanchette, Sonia's aunt, said the family tried to make the service about remembering three beautiful children. She said it's too soon to lay blame.
"It's hard to hear the judgments of everyone," she said.
"It would be better to focus on the father and the three little children."
The funeral was held in the town of Acton Vale, about an hour east of Montreal. Mourners said the family is well-known in the community and operates a tree farm in the area.
Two tractors from the farm were parked outside the church as a tribute to the children, who enjoyed watching the machines on the farm. They served as a makeshift memorial and had been filled with dozens of the children's stuffed animals, a small baseball glove and a pair of booties.
The balloons were marked with the numbers 2, 4 and 5 in reference to the children's ages.
The ceremony was private and over an hour long. A friend of the family said the church was packed with 850 friends, relatives and members of the community.
Mourners filed into the church for two hours before the service began to visit with the family. Others who didn't know the family personally also decided to attend.
Michel Surprenant, the head of a group that supports families of lost and slain children, said he reached out to Desautels in recent days.
"We need to be here to show that support exists after something like this happens," he said.
The children were found dead last Sunday on the top floor of a duplex in Drummondville.
Sonia Blanchette, 33, will undergo a psychiatric assessment to determine if she's fit to stand trial. Her next court appearance is Dec. 14.
-- The Canadian Press