Some 800 mourners gathered at St. Mary of the Mills Church in Laurel on Saturday, Aug. 6, for the funeral of 27-year-old Lauren Giddings, the North Laurel native and parish member who was slain inGeorgia.
Giddings' dismembered body was found June 30 in a trash can outside of her apartment complex in Macon, where she had just graduated from Mercer University Law School and was studying for the state's bar exam. Stephen Mark McDaniel, Giddings' 25-year-old next-door neighbor and a fellow law student, has been charged in her death.
Amid bouts of heavy rain Saturday, family and friends from around the country and from various stages in Giddings' life – childhood, college and law school – filled the stone church to capacity, many of them in tears or leaning on others for support.
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Pall bearers brought Giddings' remains to the altar in an urn, held inside of a case made of glass and wood.
The full Catholic funeral service and Mass included a homily by Monsignor Michael Wilson and remarks of remembrance by friends and family members of Giddings. All spoke of her infectious laughter, fun personality and sincere faith.
Kaitlyn Wheeler, Giddings' sister, noted that Giddings had served as the maid of honor at her wedding shortly before she went missing, and at the wedding had compared the close circle of family and friends in attendance to a close-knit village. The many groups of friends from other stages of Giddings' life who were in attendance at the funeral, Wheeler said, were Giddings' other villages, and the funeral was an opportunity for everyone to share their love for Giddings.
"Not only did Lauren have one village, like most, she had several," Wheeler said.
Garon Muller, a friend of Giddings from Mercer, called her "the type of person you could confide in," and the "glue that held us all together."
Giddings was always willing to make "a joke at her own expense just to make someone else feel more comfortable," Muller said.
"Lauren was the type of person who didn't have to look for a good time," he said. "She made a good time."
'Diligent and dedicated'
Kristin Miller, a friend of Giddings' from Agnes Scott College, said Giddings had a passion for all she did, loved studying in Starbucks, read the Economist magazine and was a "diligent and dedicated" worker who brought a lively spirit to King & Spalding, the law firm where she used to work.
Giddings' faith was inspiring, Miller said, and it will be her "great bursts of infectious laughter" that she remembers most.
"I refuse to let the story of Lauren Giddings end in sorrow," she said.
Giddings' aunt, Kathy Mann, spoke of the "privilege" of knowing her, while childhood friends Katie O'Hare and Lori Supsic, who stood at the lectern together, spoke of a fiercely loyal friend and country music lover who told crazy stories and had an endless amount of love to give out.
Another aunt, Debbie Docal, spoke of her niece as a loving older cousin, who is now a "little angel" in heaven for her cousin and Godson, Ory.
"She gave us so much more than we ever gave her," Docal said.
In his homily, Wilson said while it is hard to understand the "evil" that took Giddings' life, she is "at peace, and she wants you to share that peace."
Giddings "wasn't a person of anger or bitterness or revenge," he said, and her family and friends should seek to find forgiveness for what happened to her.
"You don't have to have it today, or tomorrow, or next week, but that is the goal," he said.
At the end of the service, Wilson noted the family had requested that the burial following the Mass be attended only by family members.
After the family left, other guests went across the street for a gathering at St. Vincent Pallotti High School.