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In memory of Shannon...

Posted: 07.29.2013 by Chris Gragtmans

Shannon, There are no words to describe what happened last week. When I found out the news about you passing away, I closed my eyes, bent over, and I swear I could feel the Earth shaking and groaning around me.

Surely that amount of positive energy being snuffed out could be sensed by every person alive. It felt to me like a celestial event- a supernova star with incomprehensible energy at the end of its life. Its death sends a shock wave out through the galaxy, and changes everything around it.

I cannot make sense of what has happened.  I still find myself thinking that I will wake up from this bad dream, jump on another Dagger conference call with you tomorrow and make magic happen.

While we all adjust to a world without you, I wanted to thank you for teaching me a few lessons on how to live life right.  I’m thinking back on my time spent with you, and realize that you centered your existence around a few key ideals.  The ones that stand out to me are your passion, devotion to your community, and unending joy.  You taught all of us the importance of these ideals through gentle example, and always with a smile on your face.  I wanted to share a few of my favorite memories of you with these traits in mind…  


I first got to know you when I put up a post about a Marketing internship at Dagger.  You messaged me and enthusiastically expressed your desire to apply for it.  I told you that you were welcome to put me down as a reference, “for whatever that’s worth.”

Of course you got the gig, and quickly made yourself indispensable to your coworkers.  I wasn’t in the office full-time with you, but even with my limited visits, I can’t express how many positive things I heard from your peers about your contributions to the team.

I’ve worked closely with you for a while now, and one common theme has always stood out about you… passion.  You were passionate about everything that you touched.  The lines between work and play blurred for you, and I loved watching your creativity pop up through your work.  Your kayak prom photo, putting mustaches on coworkers at events, and working together on the microphone to build suspense when giving away boats for Team River Runner or First Descents- you were always passionate and I loved working with you.  Through your actions, you gave your peers pride to be doing what we were doing.

You contributed to our vocational fulfillment.


You knew one thing that we all innately feel inside, but can’t quite put our fingers on.  You knew that the experiences we have in the outdoors are beautiful, but the true gifts that we receive from these experiences are the people who are in this room- the people with whom we share them.    

You knew this better than any of us, and you made up the very best of this fabric that connects us.  I know that you’re with us today, and you’re probably blushing at receiving so much attention.  But Shannon, what you have here is a testament to the way that you lived your life.  You are the common bond that has brought all of these people together, and your actions have given us something to strive for.

I remember putting together my French Broad Distance Project for First Descents (a project I still need to complete).  I swear I had put the fundraiser page up for no more than a half hour, and you had already found it, donated to it, and shared it with your network.  That is how you operated… spreading positivity in your community in every way possible, and supporting those who you believed were trying to do the same.

Another happy memory occurred at the Mountain Games in Vail.  I brought you to a couple of gatherings, and it was amazing to watch you make new friends.  I realized that your energy and presence in a room actually made people around you feel better about themselves.  You not only lived your life in a certain way, but you also elevated everyone around you as well.  After having just a small glimpse into your energy, my friends couldn’t stop asking me questions about you.  They were drawn to you in a way that they couldn’t even explain, and I think that goes for all of us.

Your tribe mourns for you today, but we have been brought closer to each other by you- the hub that connects all of us.  I know that your focus on your community will live on through your scholarship fund, and through us, the people who carry on your legacy.    


There’s one memory that I can’t seem to shake.  This past New Years, you and Jay came up to Asheville to hang out with my friends and me.  Of course I was stoked to have such an awesome crew together, but I was very disappointed to find that the pub that I guided everyone to (with promises of dancing into the New Year) had a DJ, but no dancefloor.  All that existed was a bunch of tables in front of a big screen TV with football playing.  I felt defeated, but you took the situation into your own hands.  Once the football game was over, you immediately moved our table over to the side, creating a small dancefloor at the front of the room.

Instead of giving up, you just started dancing.

Without self-doubt or insecurity, you expressed your joy for life in your own unique way.  Of course Pablo, Jay, and I weren’t going to leave you hanging, so we jumped in and started dancing too.  And that is what we did- just the four of us, for over 30 minutes!  It’s fun living like you- just saying “I will do what brings me (and those around me) the most joy in this moment.”

After a long time of over 100 people just staring at us from their seats, we could see a few standing up, visibly tempted to jump in and shred with us.  It was funny- they were mostly girls pushing their boyfriends to get out there with them.  But one by one you would either physically grab them and pull them out, or coax them more discreetly through dance moves like the fishing line cast and others.  Your goal was to create joy for yourself and as many people as possible around you, and I’ve never in my life seen anyone with more joy than you Shannon.

It was as if every night when you went to sleep, you somehow plugged your batteries into an infinite source of unadulterated happiness.  This allowed you to wake up anew and spread positive energy with every breath and every action.

That was a night to remember- each of us just being joyful and comfortable in our own skin, like you were.  What a great way to live life.

After reflecting on these lessons that you taught me Shannon, I now realize one thing- you are irreplaceable.

You are one of the most wholesome, pure, genuine, and beautiful people that I have ever met.  And while this void cannot be filled by anyone else, all of us can learn to add a little bit of you to our own lives.  Your presence in our lives made every single one of us better people Shannon, and it is now we who must strive to live up to the example that you set.

All of us knew you in different settings Shannon, but I think I will always remember you with that image of you dancing.    

And I know that last week you danced joyfully into the Light.