Quentin Bryce recalled fighting back tears in the Middle East over the death of Australian soldiers, and the thrill of attending a royal wedding in London, as she reminisced about her five-year term as Governor-General.
She delivered the personal reflections on her time in office to a hand-picked audience at Government House at Yarralumla on Sunday.
''This occasion is a very special one for me,'' she told about 100 people at the lunch, under a marquee in the grounds of the stately residence by the lake.
Ms Bryce is holding a series of private functions as she winds up her term and prepares to leave Government House at the end of March.
Governor-general in waiting Peter Cosgrove let slip, after a visit to the Queen in London last week, that Prince George will accompany his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to Australia in April.
Ms Bryce said her older sister told her, on the day she was sworn in as governor-general: ''This will change you - never forget where you came from.''
Ms Bryce said the experience of being Governor-General had changed her. ''I could not count the ways, but mostly they have been to do with the heart,'' she said.
''As my sister instructed, I have never let go of where I came from, my little town in the west of Queensland, now in horrific drought - my neighbourhood, my community, my grassroots.''
Ms Bryce said one of the most memorable events from her term was a ramp ceremony in Dubai in September 2012 for five Australians killed in Afghanistan.
''The ode was read, and Last Post sounded, before the five caskets were marched by bearers past defence force personnel, I followed them on to the C-17 Globemaster bound for Australia,'' she said. ''I kept my tears for another time, as we all did, I think, that day in 55 degrees on the tarmac. Hearts breaking for families at home.''
In 2011 she attended the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Westminister Abbey, along with 15 other Commonwealth governors-general.
''We looked across to families of the bride and the groom as we whispered about who's who, as one always does at a wedding,'' she said.
''The brother princes strode past us to take up position, glorious music soaring high into the gothic arches - I can tell you I soaked in every detail, you could feel the happiness in the air. It truly was an honour to represent Australia at such a grand celebration. Oh the beauty, the history, the exquisite protocol, the warmth shining through. Every single person with a smile.
''I thought of Adam Lindsay Gordon there in Poets' Corner, his lines that my parents taught me as a little girl, about kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own.''
The seating arrangements for lunch had University of Canberra chancellor Tom Calma and former Treasury secretary Ken Henry each side of Ms Bryce.
Guests included Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker, Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson, Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, ABC newsreader Virginia Haussegger and The Canberra Times editor-at-large Jack Waterford.