When Anna Mirabai Lytton, a 14-year-old from Springs, was struck by a car and killed in East Hampton on June 15, it was as if the community-at-large were bereaved. As a parent and grandparent, I can think of nothing so horrible as the loss of a child.
I was not among those who knew her. Her father, Rameshwar Das, had taken photographs for The Star in years gone by, but I had never met his wife, Kate Rabinowitz, or son, James Lytton. However, like everyone at the John Drew Theater for her memorial on Saturday, I was overcome by the testimony to her as an extraordinary person. The theater was full and those who could not get a seat were allowed to listen from the lobby. It was the most moving service I had ever attended, and perhaps ever will. Everyone I spoke with afterward and in the next few days agreed and said their tears had flowed.
Because Mr. Das is a fine photographer, the slides shown on the big John Drew Theater screen of Anna and her family and friends were numerous, funny, and charming. Even though no one knew the password for Anna’s computer, the family found someone who accessed the hard drive so the recorded music that preceded the program was her own playlist.
But it was the picture painted of this young woman by those who spoke that was so overwhelming. And it was the courage and ability to contain their grief that stunned the audience as Anna’s father, mother, brother, and two grandparents spoke, among others. They described a rainbow of goodness that identified Anna’s personality. In his remarks, Eric Casale, the principal of the Springs School — from which Anna was about to graduate — said the mantra during the week as teachers and students struggled with what had happened was “smile.” Anna was always seen with a smile.
Krishna Das, a Buddhist teacher and singer, opened the program, drawing “om” from those assembled before he sang. Jonathan Sheffer, a composer and conductor, spoke and then sat at the grand piano to play as he sang the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” It also was on Anna’s playlist. Three of Anna’s friends, as well as one of the girls’ mothers, described what they wanted to remember best about her. Another friend, Sienna Van Sickle, drew applause when she sang a song that she had sung together with Anna.
When Ms. Rabinowitz said that on the day before Anna died she had reached out and told her what a wonderful mother she was, it seemed that everyone gasped in recognition of what an extraordinary person Anna was. And it sounded like the whole theater joined Jenni Muldaur, Krishna Das, and Ms. Rabinowitz, with David Nichtern on guitar, in the final song, “I’ll Fly Away.”
Someone said afterward that despite the harrowing circumstances of Anna’s death and torrent of grief it unleashed, he was left with a feeling of hope. Perhaps he meant that Anna’s life and her family proved there were still good people in the world.