Through 21 years of marriage, Brian and Karen Short seemed to be best friends, loving and involved parents to three teenage children who lived the American dream in a sprawling Lake Minnetonka house with summers on the water, a second honeymoon in Italy and strong, abundant friendships.
In a memorial service on Sunday, several hundred mourners heard about both sides of the Short family, all of whom were shot and killed by the 45-year-old Brian earlier this month in their Greenwood home. He then shot himself, the coda to his horrific act of domestic violence. Their five bodies were found Sept. 10 by police, with their little white dog, Harley, the lone survivor.
Brother-in-law Leo Williams said he had seen glimpses of darkness recently: Brian Short’s increasing depression and anxiety over his struggling business as evidenced by a 60-pound weight loss, and his absence from family events and boating excursions. Short had been trying different prescription medications, but wasn’t feeling better, Williams said.
The brother-in-law publicly posed the question on everyone’s mind: How could his “buddy Brian” have done this? “The answer is very simple,” Williams said. “We will never know.”
Williams was among seven friends and family members who spoke from the stage at the cavernous Grace Church in Eden Prairie, their images on a screen behind them, their voices projected by microphone. There were no caskets, but a row of funeral urns was on view among bouquets of flowers across the stage.
Speakers recalled happier memories: 17-year-old Cole’s love of pet fish, his entrepreneurial spirit and practical joking; 15-year-old Madison’s warm heart, lively personality and voracious reading, and 14-year-old Brooklyn’s love of soccer, school and making music videos.
Karen Short’s sister, Kelly Wilhelm, also brought up the family’s unfathomable end, saying her sister had “spoken to” her since her death, telling her “they’re all OK. They’re all together in heaven. They’re happy and they’re at peace.”
Wilhelm said her sister posthumously had advised survivors to “focus on the future,” not on how they all died. “I told her, ‘Of course, that’s not going to happen tomorrow,’ ” Wilhelm said. “But I think we have to do that for all of them.”
The comments of Wilhelm and Williams, who is married to Brian Short’s sister, Lori Williams, were the most direct references to the killings in an emotionally restrained service that started with the crowd joining to sing “Amazing Grace,” led by Pastor Brian Vaughan on the stage.
As the service ended, mourners — including Minnetonka High School girls in blue soccer jerseys — walked quietly out to a recording of Bob Marley singing, “Three Little Birds,” which Wilhelm said was her sister’s favorite song. “Don’t worry about a thing,” Marley sings.
The ceremony ended with food in the church’s atrium, where hundreds of family snapshots and portraits were displayed on poster boards in front of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lawn.
The tableaux showed family members through the years: Brian Short holding an infant Cole in his blue baby blanket. Madison jumping into a lake, wet hair flying. Brooklyn with her soccer team. A 2015 youth service trip to Costa Rica. Dozens and dozens of handwritten notes in markers on giant cards from the children’s friends saying they won’t be forgotten.
In so many of the photos, Brian Short appeared happy alongside his family, posing with the children or hoisting a fish.
Forgiveness wasn’t the directive to mourners, but Williams came closest in his speech when he said, seemingly to his late brother-in-law: “We know this is not the man you were.”