Lauren Giddings was the type of young woman who lived life to the fullest. She was confident and poised. She relied on her faith to get through tough times.
That is how members of Mercer Law Schools' "family" remembered Giddings, during a mass said in honor of the 27-year-old homicide victim Saturday.
"Lauren did not just exist, she lived, and she lived the type of life that was bursting with energy with strength, with confidence, with purpose and with passion," Lucie Hartmann, former classmate and Mercer Law School class president, told hundreds gathered.
Giddings' family, colleagues and friends nearly filled the 550-seat St. Joseph Catholic Church in downtown Macon.
Her disappearance sometime on June 25, and the discovery of part of her dismembered body outside her Georgia Avenue apartment complex five days later, are the center of an ongoing police and FBI investigation.
Despite many unanswered questions, Giddings' loved ones joined together Saturday to move forward from recent dark days, Mercer University Chaplain Craig McMahan said.
The mass began at 6:30 p.m. with Giddings' parents, Bill and Karen, leading a procession of about 75 family members from Georgia and her their home in Maryland, into the church.
Father Dawid Kwiatkowski spoke of the pain felt by those who loved her and of the tragedy a life that ended too soon.
"It's hard to breathe, it's hard to speak," he said. "It seemed like her life was unfolding in a perfect way, just as she wanted and just as she thought God, her best friend, wanted."
Giddings had just graduated law school and was preparing to take the bar exam when she was killed.
After the mass, McMahan and others from Mercer University addressed the crowd.
"Surely one glance around this sanctuary is evidence enough of the breadth of Lauren's life and how much she was loved," he said.
"These last few days have been dark days, perhaps darker than any of us have ever experienced before, because we are trying to grapple with the loss of Lauren, one so bright with promise and so full of life. We gather here today to push back against that darkness to turn ourselves purposely toward the light, by remembering her life by celebrating who she was, and by acknowledging gratefully the gift that she will always be."
Hartmann, a former classmate, said Giddings spent her third year of law school interviewing clients at the Bibb County Jail and running in her free time.
"Lauren's passion was felt by her classmates and professors when she refused to waiver from her beliefs and opinions, earning her the nickname Scalia in her first year from a professor that loved to debate with Lauren and a class nomination to be the next Nancy Grace," Hartmann said.
Sarah Gerwig-Moore taught Giddings at the law school for more than two years. She described her former student as hard-working and funny.
"I don't have to tell you all that that's rare in young lawyers," she said.
Gerwig-Moore read from a journal Giddings' kept during her time working for the Bibb County Public Defender's Office.
"'I'm really providing a personal service and should be proud of it, we're privileged to be able to do the work we do,' and that was who Lauren was to us," she said, "A gifted humble woman who felt privileged to do work that others shun, she was a brave, irrepressible soul who challenged us to be our best selves whether in the faculty-student softball games or in the courtroom or beyond."
Gerwig-Moore ended by encouraging loved ones to find strength in Giddings' memory.
"Though we don't want to face a world without her in it, we can learn from her brave example and love."