Lionel Desmond's casket was draped in a Canadian flag Wednesday, as mourners packed a 200-year-old Nova Scotia church for the funeral of the former soldier and the mother he shot to death.

Rev. John Barry told about 300 mourners at the service for Desmond and his 52-year-old mother Brenda that it was impossible to offer an explanation for such a "horrific tragedy."

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Among mourners were members of the military, Royal Canadian Legion members and a few veterans. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

"In the face of such tragedy, it sometimes feels that all is lost," the priest said at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Tracadie, N.S., at the first of two family funerals.

'We are all searching for answers'

"Inevitably, we all are searching for answers and we are asking many questions," he said. "We must feel the full impact of this event.

"We cry out to God, for he is the only one we can turn to."

Desmond, 33, killed his mother, his wife Shanna and their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah before killing himself in the family home in rural Upper Big Tracadie last week.

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Lionel Desmond's casket was draped in a Canadian flag as it was carried into a church in Nova Scotia on Wednesday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The funeral for Shanna and Aaliyah Desmond is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at a hall across the street from St. Peter's.

A stiff wind drove the cold rain sideways as mourners arrived at the church, some standing in the entryway and a few others outside in the icy weather.

Among mourners were members of the military, Royal Canadian Legion members and a few veterans wearing leather jackets with their regiments shown on the back.

'Let us be patient'

Brenda Desmond's casket was brought in first and placed in the centre aisle.

Her son's flag-draped casket was brought in next, as a piper played a funeral dirge.

As the caskets were carried to the front of the church, a few mourners at the front wailed in agony.

"I cannot answer all of your agonizing questions ... during this dark hour," Barry said. "God has all of the answers."

"Let us be patient and confident that we will one day be able to ask him, face to face."

'Loving and kind' mother

He described Brenda Desmond as "loving and kind."

He mentioned her sense of humour, her capacity for hard work and her enduring faith.

Brenda Desmond

Brenda Desmond, 52, had worked in the construction industry and lived in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. (Facebook)

"Nothing seemed impossible to her," Barry said, adding that she always seemed to win at bingo, which drew a laugh from the mourners.

"Brenda led a good life, as short as it was," he said.

Barry described Lionel Desmond as "affable and friendly."

Lionel Desmond 'provided well'

"He, like his mother Brenda, always had a lovely smile, and a pleasant manner and an engaging personality."

"He was always ready to do whatever he could to help and provide for others. These attributes, no doubt, were the primary reason he went to serve in the Armed Forces in September of 2004."

Lionel Desmond

Lionel Desmond was part of the India Company, 2nd battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment in Afghanistan in 2007. (Facebook)

"He married Shanna Borden and they brought into this world a little daughter, and he provided so well for them. They were both so proud of her."

Family members say Lionel Desmond was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Afghanistan in 2007, and had received treatment from the military.

But relatives have also suggested the former infantryman did not get the help he needed when he returned to Nova Scotia 18 months ago.