I have had a mix bag of family experiences through out my life, and at best it can be described as dysfunctional. I think everyone will claim that, though, about their own families. After all, we are all human and to err is to be human. What has held steadfast however is the importance that family has played in my life, both nuclear and extended, and I include my closest friends in that definition of extended family. I literally could not be where I am currently, with out at the very least, the mental support I have needed to persevere. Life is tough sometimes and we don’t do it single handedly.
This particular story involves several families and how they became one. The true definition of community. The venue and the activity I think are just details, however, they did act as a conduit for this group of folks to come together. The US National Whitewater Center had been my place of employment for nearly 6 years, and in those years I have seen many faces come and go. During this time, our staff at the kayak center helped develop and provide guidance to a number of people, including kids of all ages. I think it was the kids that largely brought the families together that may otherwise have lead parallel paths. One group of families in particular really stuck together and continually stepped up to help one another out to raise all of these great kids. You know the saying, “It takes a village…”
The Graspointners were commonly found amongst this particular group of folks, and let me just say, they exemplified what family means. Hans, Mannette and Gus; Jovial, gracious, polite and eager to play with one another. I knew Gus pretty well as he was friends with a good number of the kids I had the opportunity to work with, and to me, he was the “silent storm” on the water. You’d never expect it if you had met him. The perfection of power and grace working together in many ways, he excelled pretty quickly at whitewater kayaking. So did all of the kids for that matter.
I never quite had as much of an opportunity to get to know Hans and Mannette, although we always shared pleasantries in passing. I suppose at this point of my life I was too busy looking forward to what’s next, and generally, most of my social time with folks was out on the water. I did however get to spend some good quality time with Hans a little over two years ago, roughly, on a trip to my old stomping grounds in Ohiopyle, PA.
A large group of us from the USNWC departed with intentions of running Ohiopyle Falls for the Falls Festival, including Hans. During this time I got to know who he was and some of the adventures he had throughout his life. I very quickly realized where Gus got a great deal of his traits from as I spoke to Hans more. Hans was a man of my own heart. He was eager to seek out time to play, but it was very obvious he was no stranger to work either as he seemed to take great pride in it. I never got to spend too much time on the water with him but certainly would have loved to show him why I am so passionate about this sport, and help him along his learning curve. I got to in brief during that weekend at the Falls Festival.
During that time apparently, Hans’ body was already at war, and it would later be found that he had Mesothelioma. The prognosis seemed optimistic at first, but unfortunately cancer is a fickle and persistent enemy to the body, and things slowly degraded. This past Sunday, on Father’s Day, Hans finally took his last breath and the long 2 year battle finally ended. Mannette cited that:
“Hans did not once complain – never were the treatments too hard or the pain too much. Hans had told me early on not to blame God, he told me to make the most of each day, he told me he was blessed. He told me he would be with me always that I just need to look for him. I see him in Gus and I see him in his friends. They say if you want to know about a man, look at his friends. Thank you all for being a reflection of Hans’ courage and compassion through our journey.”
It is goes without saying that this family has been through a trying time and no doubt has suffered a tremendous loss. But even in sad times, there are silver linings. The families that were forged together by a common venue and activity are stepping up in a big way. What to me is even more impressive, it is the children that are putting forth the effort to help ease the pain and burden of this long fight. I simply could not believe my eyes and ears when I heard what they intend to do to help out, and it already has begun.
I encourage everyone to check out this great cause and event and to contribute to the Graspointners in whatever fashion possible. You can visit this site here to donate to help ease a portion of the financial burden. The amount of time and money spent on treating Hans and extending his hope was no doubt a heavy weight to bear.
Lydia and I intend to donate the profit from 2 days worth of instruction to help. You can either hire us during this time, knowing that it is going to a good cause, donate, or both. More details on the instruction will be forthcoming in the next week.
On a final note, I just wanted to share my sentiments on what kind of life I strive for that we celebrate in the memory of Hans, which I shared with Mannette after the passing of Hans on Sunday:
What a wonderful life to celebrate!
Hans, and the whole Graspointner family are shining examples of the grace we should all live our life by!
I know it has been a trying and long journey, and no doubt is a tremendous loss. But his energy and stories, unite and remind all of us that there is no void of Hans other than the physical.
I can’t wait to see the man that Gus develops into… He undoubtedly has had the best example of how to charge at life with energy and commitment, as well as humility and graciousness.
Again, you all are a reminder of what Lydia and I strive for daily. Without hesitation, let us know if there is anything we can do.
With love and support,
Chris and Lyd