Keeping life colorful


Melissa Butts

Anabelle Litwiler shares the story of her grandfather’s funeral and the impact he left on her.

The day started out colorfully, kids running around, jumping into the pool with big splashes. Neighbors, friends, and family chatted and shared stories. It was hard to imagine how everything would shift as she and her family changed into black clothes and drove to her grandfather’s funeral. The colors would slowly drain from pinks, blues, and greens to gray.

Despite the stimulating party, Anabelle Litwiler felt numb as she walked into the funeral home. Her grandfather was a significant figure in her life, and to have him pass away at just sixty-one years old, didn’t sit right.

“I would say the actual end of the funeral was the most impactful when it kind of just sunk in,” Anabelle said. “Because before we got to his funeral, I almost felt kind of weird because I didn’t feel so overly sad. Like I wasn’t as crying as much as I felt like I should have. I think I was kind of stuck in some kind of weird grief stage. I wouldn’t say denial, but at the same time, it was just hard for me to process.”

Her grandfather, Jeffrey Litwiler, was a man that lived his life how he wanted. Whether changing from work in insurance to becoming a licensed nurse, or socializing with neighbors and family, he spent his time wisely and happily. That included spending time with Anabelle.

“We both loved art and drawing,” Anabelle said. “He even taught me how to like certain painting techniques when I was younger. And I’ve always kind of attributed my artistic sense and my kind of my talent towards him since he was kinda the same way.”

Two years later, Anabelle views the day of his funeral as a day of living in his spirit by holding two parties, one before, and one after the ceremony. 

Her mother, Kristie Carver, saw Jeffrey in Anabelle in the way she helped comfort her family.

“[I noticed] just what a pillar of support that she ended up being, for not just her cousins that were kind of her subordinates, but also for her grandmother and her aunts. She was so attentive and not trying to come up with the right thing to say but knew, just to be there,” Carver said.

On Senior Reflection Night, English teacher Jonathan Bitzer found that her family inspired much more than just her character. Her other grandfather, Samuel Cook, created the camp she volunteered at for her community service.

“She did a project around this youth instruction camp called Safety Town where they kind of teach kids how to navigate an urban area safely. Look both ways before crossing,” Bitzer said. “And there was a family connection. Her mother had also done work with Safety Town, and I think her grandfather had actually started that program in the town where they were from. And that was awesome to see that kind of legacy work go on that way.”

For her future career, she’s looking to study Mechanical Engineering at Sinclair. Though her love of solving problems is all her own, it’s easy to think that it was passed down from Jeffrey.

“I feel like that kind of stems from the handiness that my grandpa [Jeffrey] had,” Anabelle said. “He was always very handy, like he was always fixing stuff, always working with his hands or building. And that wasn’t just him. That was kinda like from both sides of my family really. Especially like the men on my dad’s side and my mom’s side. They’re definitely very hands-on type people, wanting to build and do things themselves. Improve upon things.”

Anabelle has an innate affinity towards both arts and sciences. Bitzer described her schedule as primarily science based, besides his Heroes: Beyond the Cape class, one of her more creative, fun electives. She knows more about film than he expected.

“It is very rare when I reference a movie that she hasn’t seen, and this is stuff going back to the 1960s and 1950s,” Bitzer said. “She just really has an encyclopedic knowledge of this kind of stuff, because she’s genuinely interested in it, and she views films very critically and I don’t mean she’s trying to attack them, but she is trying to understand how they’re built, what their messaging is, that sort of thing.”

Anabelle has also melded art and science together for engineering projects. She began a project in Jason Shield’s Engineering II class late, due to being absent, teaching herself the steps and finishing the project by herself.

“She did a robot. A ladybug. She didn’t have anyone else to rely on and ended up ordering some things from Amazon,” Carver said. “Basically taught herself and her teacher was like ‘oh I’m concerned about this, what you bit off here with this project,’ and she was so determined that she was like ‘I’m not gonna let this beat me.’ And she figured it out. She put hours and hours into it, figured it out. That’s the one thing that I think with Anabelle. If she puts her mind to something, there’s nothing stopping her. She’s gonna push through.”

Carver and Bitzer both hope that she succeeds and finds enjoyment in the work she does, no matter the specific career field Anabelle goes into.

“I think there are definitely people for whom the lack of external rewards for an interest, that might limit them, might inhibit them, and for whatever reason it doesn’t for Anabelle and I would say whatever it is, whatever that drive is, whatever that march into your own beat-ness is, do it because it’s going to get you far,” Bitzer said.

As Anabelle and her family transitioned into the after-party, the gray became colorful. Muted, but “very reminiscent of Monet’s expressionism,” as Anabelle described, but still colorful. The family was relaxed, moving into acceptance and transition, knowing that sometimes it doesn’t make sense to stay on the same path, as Jeffrey taught them.

“Much like the showers in spring, it was drab and gray, but it only meant healing and rejuvenation was not that far behind,” Anabelle said.