When former Wagga girl Lauren Brownlee embarked on her great Melbourne adventure, she left a letter for her father.
In the letter, she thanked her dad for raising her and supporting her. She said she loved him and couldn’t wait to come home for Christmas.
Mere weeks before Christmas, six years later, part of the letter was recited at her funeral.
The end read: “This letter was pretty much to say thank you for … being the best dad possible. I love you with all my heart”.
Ms Brownlee – the girl from the bush – was struck by lighting in a freak storm last month.
The 25-year-old former Wagga woman had been watching the wild weather roll across northeast Melbourne with her boyfriend Ben Hollow on November 24 when she was tragically killed.
Mr Hollow was also severely injured in the accident.
Tears flowed freely as dozens of family and friends on Friday said a bitter-sweet farewell to a loving, kind, beautiful, willful and selfless young woman.
As Precious Memories played, those closest to Ms Brownlee shared the cherished stories and anecdotes that would “live on” in their hearts.
Her cousin Aylah Bronwnlee, who spoke on behalf of the family, said the 25-year-old would always be missed.
Choking back tears, Aylah said Ms Brownlee was her father’s “curly haired kid” – “a country girl in the back of the ute with the wind in her hair”.
Of all her passions and interests including: animals, skulls, alternative rock, cosmetics, photography, incense and oils, Aylah said the love of Ms Brownlee’s life was her dad.
“He was ever so caring and supportive,” Aylah said. “He was always trying to make all her wishes come true … They were the A team.”
Often pictured with a walkie-talkie around her neck as a child, Ms Brownlee was an adventurer; always running, roaming, dreaming and exploring.
But it was her smile, the look that spoke without words and the hands on the hips that said: “I mean business”, that would be painted in the memories of those who loved her.
The bright-eyed, young country woman moved to the big city to pursue real estate in 2011, eventually working her way up to office manager.
But despite her success in Melbourne, it was always Ms Brownlee’s dream to return to Wagga.
Compassionate intelligent, elegant, witty, honest, beautiful, ambitious and caring, were just a few words Ms Brownlee’s cousin used to describe the woman who was more like a sister.
“She believed life should be built with memories and experiences, not objects,” Aylah said. “She always put people above herself.”
Ms Brownlee’s father, Glenn, was solemn, as he faced the small gathering at Alan Harris McDonald funeral home on Friday.
He said he wasn’t a religious man, but he hoped his daughter was looking down on them from above.
“If you see your grandmother – my mother – give her a big hug from all of us,” he said.
Ms Brownlee’s “favourite human”, her partner Ben Hollow’s words were read to the intimate gathering.
He said destiny had brought them together.
“Lauren, You are the love of my life and I will cherish every moment we spent together,” Mr Hollow said. “You stole my heart”
One of Ms Brownlee’s colleagues said her “darling Lozzy” was unlike anyone she had every known; “graciously graceful, yet funky and hard-arse”.
As the service came to an end, friends, colleagues and family released multi-coloured balloons over Wagga, setting them free, as Lauren Brownlee would forever be.
A memento photograph, provided at the service, read:
“You mean so much to all of us, you are special and that’s no lie. You brighten up the darkest day, and the cloudiest of skies.
“Your smile alone warned hearts, your laugh was like music to hear. I would give absolutely anything to have you standing near.
“Not a second passes, when you’re not on our minds. Your love, we will never forget, the hurt will ease in time.
“Many tears I have seen and cried, they have all poured out like rain. I know that you are looking down now, and that we’ll see you again.”