Karl Olson Kid Brother Of Katherine Olson
I delivered the following message to the judge today at sentencing:
Your Honor, my name is Karl Olson and I am the kid brother of Katherine. I speak to you and the rest of the court today as the youngest person to share a statement, a person about two and a half years younger than Katherine and about two and a half years older than Convicted Murderer Anderson. This gives me the unique perspective of somebody who has graduated from college yet doesn’t know what steps to take next. The process of graduating from college and making that transition has been exponentially more difficult in light of Katherine’s death.
Katherine’s death made me question whether or not I could finish my education during the middle of my senior year. You see, the hole in Katherine’s back left a tremendous hole in my heart, a hole so great I thought about joining Convicted Murderer Anderson in the ranks of dropouts. Due to the actions of this Convicted Murderer, I was left with little ability to focus or to critically analyze. I spent hours looking at assignments, unable to calm myself down from the stress of Katherine’s death. I would take naps, waste time on my computer, and find random ways to entertain myself. But cracking my books was not a possibility for at least a month after Katherine died, and it has taken me more than a year to feel like I have my head on straight, and that I can step out into the big wide world.
But stepping out into the world has been anything but easy. I realize it is supposed to be difficult, but Katherine’s death has left me with questions as to whether or not I could get a job knowing I would have to ask for so much time off. It was presumed last summer that this trial could take up to a month, and what decent organization would hire a young person who needs one month off in the first year of a job? Not many. As a result, I have worked menial jobs for minimal pay for the last several months. My life has been on hold. The actions of Convicted Murderer Anderson not only halted the life of Katherine, but mine as well. I look forward to gaining some stability in my life in the upcoming months, but the impact of Katherine’s death still stays with me.
Katherine and I were very close. It was the two of us who paled around campus together, who counseled at a camp together, and who allied with each other on family issues. In the Olson family, my parents stick together, Sarah and Doug stick together, and Katherine and I stuck together. Yet now I am left without the person who truly understood my personality and struggles, and that pain is immense. I will not find a substitute for Katherine ever again. I will forever be looking for somebody who I can call at 6:00pm and join on a moment’s notice or somebody who will listen intently with little judgment when I need a friend. Other people will come in and out of my life, but they will never fill the role Katherine played. She is gone, and I recognize that every hour of every day. It is the first thing I think about every morning and it’s the last thing I think about at night. My friend Katherine is gone.
I fear that Katherine’s personality has become that of an overly ambitious, high energy, and perhaps absent-minded genius. While some of the sound bytes may be accurate, she was far more compassionate and calm with me. Katherine was a great listener with whom I had the opportunity to process life events, such as my entry to junior high, high school, and college. Katherine was two grades older than I so she could clear the way for her kid brother to enter these milestones. She was always the top dog at the schools when I entered them and as she looked out for me, I looked up to her. In conversations, Katherine’s patience outlasted mine, which meant she never cut me off or jumped to judgments. I vividly remember conversations with Katherine during my first year of college when she asked about my academics and my escapades. She helped me with my mediocre Spanish skills and offered helpful advice to negotiate life. Katherine always assumed the best in people, which is why her death is so sad.
About two months before Katherine died I had the privilege of going camping with Katherine and a couple of her friends. We prepared the equipment and food for our one-night stay at a local state park and headed out. The warm, late-August night offered a chance to sit around the campfire and discuss pertinent life issues. For Katherine, it was the post-college transition. She had traveled to Turkey for a summer; worked as a nanny, speech and Spanish teacher and waitress for a school year; and wasn’t finding satisfaction in her current job as a receptionist. We discussed a lot of big questions about post-college happiness and vocation. I hadn’t lived the transition so I couldn’t speak from experience. I knew it was mere months away and the thought of Katherine being there to help crossed my mind. Even though she didn’t have all the answers, she knew how to listen and share, to ease my mind, and to find comfort in her own words. Because of her death, I have been robbed of this experience with my sister.
Katherine and I both had Project Friendship buddies with whom we spent time each week in college. Katherine’s 13-year old mentee was the older sister of my 9-year old mentee. The four of us would spend a couple hours each week baking cookies, throwing a Frisbee, going sledding, watching Spanish cartoons, or creating crafts from half-used arts and crafts supplies. Katherine’s optimism permeated into the personality of those children. When my little buddy, Harley, found out about Katherine’s death, he didn’t understand why it had to happen. Indeed, the answer to his question still baffles me and is even harder for a fourth grader to understand. He said we should get “the mean man,” and I said it would happen in time. Harley responded by saying he missed Katherine and that he wanted her to come and play. I, not knowing what to say to the fourth grader, simply said what still holds true today. “Harley, I do, too.”
Katherine’s personality has shaped me in the numerous ways I have mentioned here. She has taught me to be kind, to step away from mediocrity, and to refuse to compromise on my goals. She has challenged me and accommodated me, which has left me with a profound void in my heart.
For about six weeks after Katherine died, I felt a comforting presence around me. It encouraged me to finish my academics and know that Katherine was safe and happy. It was about the same time when I cried to the Lutheran hymn Lord of All Hopefulness in the presence of 3,000 people. The hymn takes people through the course of a day, or life, and brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. The last two verses read,
Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
I rest easier at night knowing that Katherine is in the next world, singing and dancing while other people join in. I am thankful that Katherine’s transition to the next world was brief and that the embracing arms on the other end were so loving. My pain has been endless over the last year and a half, but my reunion with my sister Katherine someday will hopefully wipe away all of my hurt.