01/24/2002 at 01:00 AM EST
As Carrie Louise Hamilton lay dying from cancer-related pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 20, PEOPLE reports in its latest cover story, she was surrounded by those who meant the most to her: her two sisters, five of her six living half-siblings and, of course, the woman whom she had both loved and battled most ferociously -- her mother, Carol Burnett. "There is nothing more tragic in life than this, " Burnett's longtime friend, Julie Andrews, 66, told the magazine. "My heart is very full for my chum." As family and friends gathered at the home of Hamilton's sister Jody later that Sunday and shared stories, photographs and tears, there was a bittersweet edge to their grief: Here was a woman who, as a teenager, had famously sunk into a pit of drug addiction that nearly shredded her family, then successfully rebuilt her life and relationships -- only to die at 38. According to PEOPLE, Burnett, 68, greeted Carrie's friends at the impromptu wake but stayed only 20 minutes before driving to her Santa Barbara home to mourn in private with her husband of two months, musician Brian Miller, 45. "Carol is a very strong lady," says Burnett's pal and comedic sidekick Tim Conway, 68, who attended the gathering. "She has had a life in which it was necessary to be strong, and she has developed a pretty strong outlook."