Andrew Ellis Winchell was only 31 years old when he died, but the fact that he lived to that age is a medical miracle. His life celebration at the Desert Springs Church helped his parents, brother, other family, and friends find comfort after the loss.
This comes from his life story as told in the program: While he was born a healthy child in 1979, at the age of two he hadn’t gained any weight or grown any taller that the year before. At four, he developed liver fibrosis, followed by kidney failure. He had a kidney transplant, cardiac arrest, and bone growth issues. Then in 2009 he was diagnosed with cancer, which was battled with surgery, as chemo was out of the question due to his transplant history. After eight weeks on hospice, cared for by his brother Mark, he died peacefully with Mark by his side.
Andrew was remembered as a talented artist in drawing, jewelry-making and photography. He graduated from Eldorado High School in 1998 and received an award voted on by the student body for the student who overcame the most obstacles to graduate. He learned to snowboard, and liked to cook and bake. He had a unique sense of humor that drew people to him, unlike others who experienced rejection because of their differences.
The speakers at the celebration of Andrew’s life were Pastor Ron Giese of the Desert Springs Church, David Kittle, a family friend, Bob Cote, a family friend and youth ministry leader, and Fred Snowden, a former pastor for the family. A call to the audience for personal stories about Andrew yielded only one speaker, a young woman who had been friends with him.
The speakers wove in quotations from Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes. They spoke about finding peace with God; that Christians embrace death, it’s not a thing to be feared; that Andrew waits for us in heaven and we’ll see him again. Fred Snowden issued the call to accept Jesus.
The event in a function room of the church was video recorded, something that is becoming more prevalent at memorial services. Around the room, examples of Andrew’s artwork, colorful T-shirts, and a collection of items with the Looney Tunes character Marvin the Martian were displayed. A photo-montage opened the event, and it closed with the blowing of bubbles, which Andrew loved to do. The approximately 75 attendees were given small bubble-blowing vials as they left the room. Outside, they released his spirit in a wave of colorful bubbles that floated skyward.
May the memory of Andrew Winchell be a blessing.