Even in the darkest hours of her final days, Diem Brown remained as colorful as they come, her friends and family say. And so, to cut through the somber black wools and grey suits that are typical of funeral processions, those who gathered at the 32-year-old's memorial ceremony this afternoon were encouraged to sport fluorescent ribbons -- lime green, neon orange and electric blue -- that could have collectively set fire to a starless sky.
The "Challenge" cast member, who died Friday after a third battle with cancer, was honored at Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City's Union Square, where her many admirers -- including those who competed alongside her on MTV -- gathered to pay respects to the woman they say never took a single day for granted.
Brown's sister Megan, who delivered a beautiful eulogy, said she struggled in the days following Diem's death to come to terms with what she'd lost and retraced some of the siblings' favorite steps -- Central Park strolls and afternoon tea at The Plaza -- for answers. "I realized in order to honor my sister, I have to live how she lived," she told the rows upon rows of folks in front of her. "Cancer did not beat you, Diem -- it led you to eternity, our dancing angel."
And in a crowd that included country singer Trisha Yearwood, who performed after an opening prayer, it was clear Brown's impact traveled far and wide.
Former "Survivor" contestant and cancer survivor Ethan Zohn, who got to know Brown through advocacy and fundraising group Stand Up To Cancer, called his friend a "cancer crusher" during an additional eulogy and delivered a message from one of the organization's founders, Katie Couric.
Couric lamented the fact that Brown's journalistic aspirations were cut short by her illness, but pointed out her willingness to share her story raised awareness all the same.
"She understood how the smallest gesture can make all the difference to someone in need," Couric wrote, and noted, "Who can forget her rock star look with half of her head shaved and the word 'fight' buzzed in?"
A final video shared by Brown's family chronicled some of her more personal moments: lighting Jack-o'-lanterns before her favorite holiday, Halloween, days spent with her sorority sisters at Florida State University and the many hair-whips that were standard of her "Challenge" experience.
In lieu of flowers, Brown's family asked that donations be made to medgift.com/diemsnextchallenge.
"Challenge" and "Real World" cast members Kelly Anne Judd, Ashley Kelsey, Preston Charles, Evan Starkman, Kenny Santucci, Cara Maria Sorbello, Laurel Stucky, Evelyn Smith, Colie Edison, Parisa Montazaran, Ibis Del Mar, Ace Amerson, Aneesa Ferreira, Johanna Botta, Paula Beckert, Ruthie Alcaide, Camila Nakagawa, Johnny Devenanzio, Jay Gotti, Averey Tressler, Jordan Wiseley, Ryan Kehoe and Chris "CT" Tamburello all gathered to say goodbye to Brown.