They prayed and listened to a priest who gave them words of encouragement in their grief, a day after the discovery of debris and some bodies extinguished their last faint hopes.

"Our God is not evil. One day slowly we will understand. Something beautiful can still come out of this," the priest told them. "There are many tests in this world. We must keep our faith in Jesus."

They then sang hymns accompanied by a guitar. Some broke down and had to be comforted while others wiped tears away and sang even louder. More than 50 had gathered for the brief mass at the crisis centre in Surabaya, the city from where the ill-fated plane departed on Sunday.

Outside, flower-wreathed condolence signboards read "May you be given strength and fortitude". As exhausted relatives prayed and awaited news about efforts to retrieve more bodies, others started to prepare funerals for loved ones.

They appeared drained, with eyes red from days of crying.

But in contrast with hysterical scenes a day earlier in the crisis centre when television footage showed a half-naked body floating in the sea, they appeared resigned to the fact that their loved ones were dead.

Aris Siswanto, 41, who lost his wife of six years, Susiyah, 40, was one of five family representatives aboard a military aircraft yesterday which found some wreckage and a body.

"I spotted the debris and my heart beat really fast. And then I saw the floating body. Those were clear signs my wife was no more in this world. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing," he said, weeping as he spoke of his wife, a babysitter who was travelling to Singapore with her Indonesian employers and their two-year-old.

"I miss her and it hurts. She was a good woman, a little firm but very faithful. We never fought a day since we got married six years ago. We always joked with each other," he said.

"I want the rescuers to find her body so I can prepare for burial. There's no way I can accept or live in peace until they find her body."

Sixty-year-old Hadi Widjaja had already made funeral preparations for his 32-year-old son Andreas and his daughter-in-law Enny Wahyuni.

"I am Catholic but my son is Muslim so I have prepared a Muslim funeral for him," he said and added "I am so sad that he's gone but this is the will of God." "I am anxious to know if the rescuers have found their bodies. The president has said that they will do the best they can to find them," he said.

"But if they really cannot find them, I will scatter flowers in the sea here as a way to say goodbye." Other families were preparing identity documents and medical records to help identify the bodies of their loved ones.


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