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Hans’s Story

In Fun-loving Memory of Hans Loewen
January 8, 1994 - March 29, 2014

Our dear, sweet Hans was doing what Hans does best -- having a blast and sharing adrenaline flow! Hans had forever been, with our support, our encouragement, and our vicarious participation, a calculating risk taker.  Hans was a loving warrior, and we want our warriors to be risk takers, don't we? Indeed, don't we all take on risks the moment we walk out the door? And Hans did it all with gusto!  He was a kitesurfer, a rock climber, an extreme downhill longboarder, a surfer, a paddleboarder, a marksman, a parkourer, a unicyclist, a slackliner, a snowboarder, a DJ, a mountain climber, an offroader, a triathlete, a mountain biker, a drummer, a reader, an ice climber, a comedian, a foster brother, our loved and loving son, brother, boyfriend, grandson, cousin and friend. 

Hans was just finishing his second year at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and planned to serve his country as a Naval or Marine Corps officer upon graduation in 2016. His service selection desires and options were completely open: Navy Seal, Navy Pilot, Marine Corps Pilot, Surface Warfare Officer. Hans lived like a warrior and would have been one of America's finest.

Hans researched each of his passions with a passion and when he engaged in it he did it with calculated intensity. On Saturday, March 22 Hans miscalculated as he was engaging in one of his many extreme sports and suffered a devastating brain injury, despite wearing his helmet. Hans was longboarding beside a slowly moving vehicle when the rear wheel of the vehicle came in contact with the back end of his board and he was knocked beneath it. He died a week later on Saturday, March 29. Oh God, hear our prayers of thanks for Hans receiving the world's best care at the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center, and bless those who received and will receive his many organs from his selfless donation.  

We all feel and hear and appreciate the outpouring of love and prayers and know that he has been uplifted in hope by all of us, our family and friends in Hampstead, on his beloved Topsail Island, all across the U.S. and the world, and his entire and incredible Naval Academy family. We are at peace with the knowledge that he is in heaven, though he lived every day like it was already heaven on earth.

Flow with kindness.  Flow with love.  Shine like Hans.

Remembering Hans Loewen @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaV4nCMI4Y8

Latest Journal Update

Song for Hans

Hans's footprint in the sand at the south end of Topsail Island on a kitesurfing day March 17, 2013

Hans's footprint in the sand at the south end of Topsail Island on a kitesurfing day March 17, 2013

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The Foam by Christina Archer (one of Hans's loves)

When the water first
touched my toes, you touched
my lips. Together we waded
into waves, waiting willfully 
for the crest to come and break
over us, brimming with white foam
that was the bliss we brought
each other.

But when the waves drew us
back into the shoreline, the sea-foam 
yellowed and dried. It collapsed in on itself
from the push of the relentless tide, and you died together.

Now all that is left is the
residue, residing as the deepness
conquers all else. The dark
water washes over me, leaving bits of tinged 
yellow foam here and there, catching
in the strands of my hair. 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hans was a dedicated money gatherer – earning, saving, gathering it so he could buy things he really wanted. When he was younger, he would earn money doing special chores or projects, babysitting, his grandpa would send him money for his hard work and good grades at school, and friends and family sent monetary gifts for his birthdays and holidays. In his youth we taxed him at 50% (getting him ready for the future): 50% of what he earned went into his untouchable savings account, some went to church. It’s a good thing he was disciplined as an adult to have money automatically deducted from his paychecks and invested, or sent to a savings account, because whatever he had left over he would gather until he had the amount he needed to purchase his latest obsession.

We have always had a loose policy that we would help Zatha and Hans with half of a purchase if it was an item that enhanced their life – anything athletically related, books, musical accoutrements, interesting outings – even while they were at the Naval Academy. Eric would say that the new kiteboard/helmet/rollerblades/mountain bike/guitar stand/triathlon gear/ski trip was “cheaper than psychological counseling.” 

When Hans was seven and a half years old he’d gathered up enough money after savings, $57, to purchase half of his first razor scooter. I remember taking him to Gart Sports on 17th Street in Idaho Falls for the big purchase. As he perused the different models, I went a few aisles over to pick out some new sleeping bags. Excited, he soon found me with his chosen scooter in hand, but not his wallet.

After a frantic search at each aisle he’d visited, we went to the front register to ask if it had been turned in. The young woman at the register told us that some man had just brought it up. We opened it and found that two $20 bills had been removed, leaving him with only $17. After questioning further the abrupt, rude, and unhelpful cashier to no avail, we left the store. I felt at the time that there was a lesson to be learned, one my father still tells me, “You have to depend on a lot a people, but you can’t trust many of them.” 

Hans retreated to his room after we got home. I went to check in on him a little later, feeling badly about it all myself. Just because he was careless about watching his wallet didn’t give someone permission to steal his hard-earned money. I found him crying and shared a few tears with him myself. I lined him out with a job in the backyard to start earning money again and off he went.

My little sister, Janet, and her family had moved to Idaho Falls a couple of years before, and early that same afternoon I shared with her the story of the scooter. She asked me some more details about the incident and the cashier. She had a hunch on which to follow up. 

That evening, Aunt Janet showed up at our house with a new scooter in hand for Hans. She had gone to Gart Sports, talked to the manager about the incident and the cashier’s abysmal customer service. My sister had actually fired the same cashier at the young woman’s previous job for possible theft and poor customer service. Janet bought Hans that new scooter with a discount from the store manager.

My little sister always had a soft spot for someone in pain, in trouble, or who needed help. Janet was long a gentle but troubled soul herself. She died unexpectedly December 14 of cardiac arrest due to accidental polypharmaceutical toxicity, too many medications all prescribed by her doctor, trying to ease her own pain: pain from surgeries, pain from relationships, pain from life, pain from death. There is no singular starting point, no one incident, no solitary person, no individual medication to blame. Her death was a confluence of many complex factors, people, and events. My hope is that she is remembered as the true person she was behind the false wall of medication, remembered for how she lived most of her life, not just remembered for how she died.

I love my baby sister. She truly is at rest, reunited with her nephew in heaven, free from any pain. People say, "Rejoice, your loved one is in heaven, in pain no more!" But I'd still rather they be here, with me, even with their imperfections. It is natural to be pain averse, but to what extent? We cannot protect our children, ourselves from all pain, no matter how much we wish to. Pray for those in pain.

On this 22nd anniversary of Hans’s birth, I am still at such a loss as to what to do, what to say, how to best honor Hans, my sister, actually all the people I love who have died. I find myself regularly saying, "I don't know." I don't know how Eric goes to work. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know that there is a heaven. I don't know that Hans is really anywhere else but his grave. I don't know if my cynicism is keeping me from seeing him. I don’t know how to best remember him. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know.

I feel dull. Resigned. Christmas wasn't so merry, though I did have a lovely holiday with people I love. How can a new year be happy without Hans, though I find moments of beauty and sweetness in those people I love?

In many ways I believe we think too much. Our basic needs in America are so well met that we have all this extra time to think too much. In many places around the world (and even in America not long ago) people spend their days fulfilling or attempt to fulfill their basic needs – gathering clean water, finding sources of heat or energy, feeding their family, making their clothes, taking care of their assets, whether it’s one goat or cow, or a herd of them, or an acre or two or thousands of them for harvest. We think that they might be unhappy having to work so hard. But are they? 

Living well is not easy, but it sure is simple. Thinking is marvelous. We need to keep expanding the capacity of our brain. But sometimes we simply need to “do.” Do things. Do things because they have to get done. Do things for the glory of God. Do things because they’re fun. Do things with meaning. Do simple things for other people. Do well at what you do. Do well in your own circle of influence, whether that circle is small or large. Do simple things to better yourself. Do.

My sweet sister went out to “do” for Hans.

We have found that the burden of our grief is lifted by simple things people do to remember Hans. And I know that my friends and family who have had a child or sibling or parent or spouse die also find their grief eased when you do something so simple as mention the name of their loved one. Since Hans’s death almost two years ago we continue to love, appreciate, and feel honored to have him remembered by so many of you – by wearing the Badass shirts, by sending poems and letters and cards and books and remembrances and bells to ring and amazing artwork, by DO-ing badass things in his honor, sweet things, athletic things, artistic things, complex things, simple things. Thank you all for your loving gestures.

One especially touching honor comes from a talented young woman none of us Loewens have ever met. Her brother Ben is a classmate of Hans’s at the Naval Academy, though even he had never met Hans. Ben’s little sister, the talented Anna Tamburello, still in high school in Alabama, learned of Hans’s death from her brother and more about Hans from his YouTube videos and here on CaringBridge. Somehow, without ever meeting Hans, Anna discovered the essence of Hans and wrote and sang this beautiful song in his honor. Thank you Anna. May you continue to flow with creativity, flow with kindness, flow with love.
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Comments

27 Comments

Mel Atento
By Julie Atento
Jennifer, you and your family continue to be on my heart and I just want to say first of all thank you for your raw honesty, transparency and willingness to share your heart and your journey. Your path is an unthinkable one yet you continue daily to honor Hans life & his memory through your continued outpouring of love to others through the sharing of your grief, your life and your heart. Your words have such power to those who also grieve and have faced loss as well as show us how to love and honor and remember. What a truly amazing mom you are as your grief is a testament to your love and how much Hans continues to be loved as well as the rest of your family. You and Eric are in my prayers regularly and it is an honor to be able to share your journey via caringbridge and in life. Thank you for being true to your heart and for honoring this amazing son of yours who you will see again in heaven. To God be all the glory. I pray for God's perfect comfort for your soul. That surfboard of yours needs more practice time so we'd love to join you in Topsail again when it gets warmer. Big hug. Thank your for sharing your journey.
Drew Allen
By Drew & Tammy
Jennifer, I just read your post and listened to Anna Tamburello's song. Both are absolutely beautiful. I am in awe of the GOD-given talents of people like you and Anna. That Hans' life and story hit such a chord with Anna is wondrous, being that she really never met him. When people write songs about those they have never met, they usually write songs about heroes... typically larger-than-life historical figures. That Hans positively continues to touch so many lives is a testament of who he is, and I have no doubt that he is living his immortal life in the the same precious way he lived his mortal one... fully.

I wish that you would become a published author. You could help so many people. Every day thousands of people slip from this mortal world, leaving so many of us in pain until that day we, too, realize our immortality. Your writings could be so inspirational to those who face loss, helping to give much-needed peace and hope.

You, Eric, and Zatha continue to be in our prayers. Thank you for sharing your love.
Trace Batton
By Trace Batton
I'm thinking about you today and my heart is hurting knowing that you are hurting. I'm praying for you, Eric, and Zatha tonight and asking for great dreams - adventure dreams, sweet dreams, and flying dreams - my favorite.
With so much love from Virginia
Carol Webb Dishart
By Carol Webb Dishart — last edited
Another beautiful post, Jennifer. My heart is still broken for you and I am so very sorry for you losing your sister. Our sons are classmates. I visited Hans when we were on the Yard recently and it is clear that he lives in the hearts of each 2016 Mid. Blessings to you and your family. Beautiful song in tribute to your son.
Janice Aaland
By Jan Aaland Hull
Both the song and what you have written are beautiful tributes to Hans and Janet, Jennifer. Thank you.
Laurie Kostrzewski
By Laurie Kostrzewski, Kirk '16/12 CO, Buffalo, NY
Jennifer,
You might not see that you are now someone with so much more introspection, strong, sensitive in your pain. I visit Hans resting place when we go to visit our son. I have followed you through this very sad journey as you collect yourself again in a different way. Be there with God's help always and depend on Him. He is the only One who will never leave you or forsake you. Love from me.
Mignon Smoak
By Mimi — last edited
Jennifer,

I once told you I would pray for Hans. But he doesn't need my prayers. He is living in a perfect body, free of pain, fear, loneness or any of the other maladies we mere mortals must endure on this earth. So now every once and a while, especially on our shared birthday I ask him to say a prayer for me . Today I am officially an old lady, turning 65, with the best gift , a call from my son LT Smoak USN telling me he is on his way home from Guam and the sub life. Be stationed in Arlington only a hour away. Whenever I see him in uniform I will think of Hans and how blessed I am and ask him to put in a good word for his shipmate. I may be a former Army officer but I can't help thinking God must be Navy Man at heart!
Barbara Raynor
By Barbara Raynor
Jenn
You are an amazing mother sister wife and friend. I love having you in my life and being your friend. Your sister had a huge heart. Sometimes people who suffer silently have a difficult time feeling happy. She must be so happy being with your beautiful son. It's obvious that she loved your Hans like so many others do. xoxo
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1 person hearted this
johanna liva
By Johanna Liva
Our pains are so huge sometimes, i am saddened to hear of your sister's passing. Remembering that love is so much greater than our pain is hard. But it is. That doesn't mean our lives are ever whole again. Bless all of you Peace to you <3
Bambi Butler
By Bambi Butler — last edited
❤️
The song she wrote is perfect!
Happy Birthday, Hans. Jen, I hope you visit him in your dreams tonight.