Lauren Giddings often began her mornings at daily Mass.
Saturday evening, her grieving family and friends gathered in the old wooden pews of her beloved St. Joseph Catholic Church.
They came to pray and remember the statuesque woman found dead outside her apartment nine days ago.
“These last few days have been dark days, perhaps darker than any of us have ever experienced,” said Craig McMahan, minister of Mercer University, where Giddings recently graduated from law school.
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“We gather in this holy place today in honor of her deep faith that reaches out to help us.”
Friends say she fully lived her short life with humility, conviction and love.
“Lauren’s passion for life is seen through virtually every aspect of her life,” said law school classmate Lucie Hartmann. “Anyone lucky enough to have know Lauren for a minute would know she lived her life to the fullest with no regrets.”
Nicknamed “Scalia” by one of her professors, Giddings was chosen by classmates as a likely successor to fellow law school alumna Nancy Grace, Hartmann said.
While serious about the law, she showed her whimsical side by searching for a canine cap and gown for her dog, Butterbean, to wear for Giddings’ graduation in May.
Newly ordained parochial vicar and native of Poland, the Rev. Dawid Kwiatkowski sang many of the prayers in the solemn Requiem Mass he concelebrated with Monsignor John Cuddy and the Rev. Daniel Melaba of St. Peter Claver.
Kwiatkowski said even strangers are mourning the young woman’s death.
“We have all stopped for a while, pictures in our mind go slowly. ... It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to sleep,” Kwiatkowski said. “The loss of Lauren has broken our hearts. It seemed like her life was unfolding in a perfect way.”
Kwiatkowski, who is the same age as Giddings, said she lived a beautiful life that bore much fruit.
Three young people sitting with the family wore bright white T-shirts brilliantly airbrushed to read “With us forever” and “Laurnie” written across a hot pink heart.
Black-eyed Susans were chosen for some of the floral arrangements in honor of Giddings’ home state of Maryland.
The church’s twin spires rising over downtown Macon are just two blocks away from where police recovered a portion of her remains nine days ago.
“Show your mercy to those who suffer so unjustly,” Deacon Tom Eden prayed with the congregation.
Her pastor, the Rev. Alan J. McDonald, said he was impressed the 27-year-old made it a priority to register in the parish shortly after moving to Macon three years ago.
“That tells you she knew her priorities and wanted God’s help and grace in her life,” McDonald said in an e-mail, as he was already scheduled to be out of town when the memorial was planned.
McDonald said the desecration of Giddings’ body added “grievous insult to injury” for those who loved her.
While the music-filled Requiem Mass focused on the repose of a soul, McDonald said the family longs to have “proper Christian burial” once the rest of her body is recovered.
“In Catholic belief our bodies await the bodily resurrection at the end of time when they will be reunited with their souls,” McDonald said. “While our faith can’t answer why this happened, our faith tells us ‘nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.’”
Law professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore said she instantly embraced Giddings’ friendly nature.
“We all liked her immediately because of her warmth and sense of fun and just adored her as we got to know her,” Gerwig-Moore said.
Giddings loved to laugh, often at her own expense.
She excelled in all that she did and was a “magnet who drew others to her and made us feel part of a privileged inner circle,” she said.
Gerwig-Moore has been reading Giddings’ journal entries and was pleased to see her student coming into her own as a public defender who often helped inmates who had nowhere to turn.
“She was a gifted, humble woman who felt privileged to do work others shunned,” Gerwig-Moore said. “A brave soul, a servant to strangers and friends.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.