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
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.