Diet Mountain Dew in Heaven: Requiescat in Pace, Lisa Olson

In my tenure upon my sandbar, I have met some truly colorful characters. I talked with Art Garfunkel about his walk across America. I spent a few hours recording a show with Dick Clark, before his stroke (nicest guy ever: we chatted about his dogs and my cat). Little Richard tried to convert me to vegetarianism, and I spent time with Lee Roy Selmon, NBA star & jazz bassist Wayman Tisdale, and Aaron Neville.

My mother’s father was a colorful character, too: an award-winning sportswriter, but also one of the most amazing storytellers I’ve ever met.

My friend Lisa Olson took being a colorful character to new levels.

Lisa and I worked together the past three years. When I started on the Supervisory Team, we were both on days. Once I moved to nights, I’d see her a few days a week. She would start her shift around the time I was leaving.

It was always quiet, almost funereal that hour of the morning. Fitzgerald wrote, “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.” That’s when we crossed paths. Lisa came in with a giant cooler of Diet Mountain Dew, popped one open, and organized the candy dishes she stocked for us all. No matter the holiday, Lisa’s desk was decorated to the nines. Bats and cobwebs for Halloween, shamrocks for St Patrick’s Day, and beautiful manger scenes at Christmas.

Lisa epitomized Oscar Wilde’s observation that, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Lisa had some adventures in her past. Eventually, she grew strong in her faith. But she wasn’t big on judgment or exclusion. She was a wonderful example, in the way she lived her life, the way she conducted herself professionally, the way she treated her friends and family.

What I’ll remember is Lisa’s laugh. Hers was a 98th percentile laugh, throaty and warm and infectious. Her whole face lit up, almost like a cartoon. Even when she was in pain, or suffering through a loved one’s problems, that laugh was never hidden too far away.

And colorful: Good Lord, was Lisa Olson colorful. Her personality was quirky and fun, sure, but she came in some mornings glowing like a sun. Once, I remember her wearing a bright (BRIGHT) coral top, with a bright multicolor jacket. Her shoes matched the bright coral. Even her nails were painted coral. It all matched. She glowed. It was next to impossible to feel depressed with so much vibrant positivity emanating from Lisa: the color and the laughter, with a bowl of good chocolates to share.

Wednesday morning, April 4, 2012, Lisa left this world. Her car was hit by a garbage truck, killing her instantly. Lisa had a strong faith, that when she left us here, she’d go on to Heaven. I don’t know what the afterworld is; I can’t prove that it exists. Like my friend Nick said, “Tom? Lisa knows the secret. She knows…” and we both got phonecalls.

Lisa knows the secret. I can see her walking into Heaven, dressed in bright turquoise or neon purple, fashionable and exuberant. I can hear her laughing with her loved ones who preceded her there. I can imagine her saying hi to God, sitting down, popping a Diet Mountain Dew, and telling a funny story to the saints, who hang on her every word and laugh along.

She knows The Secret. And it’s no secret at all that those of us who loved her will miss her presence. However, we have rich memories, and loving fondness, and the sustaining hope that we’ll laugh together again, somewhere down the road.

Rest in Peace, Lisa. I’ll toast you with every Diet Mountain Dew I drink. We’ll see you around, and thanks.

28 Responses to “Diet Mountain Dew in Heaven: Requiescat in Pace, Lisa Olson”

  1. I’m sorry to hear you have a Lisa-shaped hole in Tomworld. It’s those sudden departures that give me more pause than horrible diseases; the fact that someone we love can be taken in a blink.

    • Thanks Laurie. It is an intersection where I too turn left every day heading to work. I’ll probably always wonder what happened.

  2. That was beautiful, my friend. So sorry for your loss.

  3. Beautiful. And true. Her spirit is “up there” doing everything you said and more.
    But, damn, what a shock to lose her like that. :(

    Now I am kinda of singing “Diet Mountain Dew in Heaven” to the inevitable first thing that popped into my head “Tears in Heaven”…it’s not quite working.

  4. What a lovely tribute to a dear friend. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’ll bet Lisa is chuckling as she reads this post. And if I ever need an obituary, I’m hiring you to write it. :)

    • I’d do it for nothing, and I hope we never have to go there. Lisa was a beaut. They brought in a grief counselor for our team today, and everyone has been eulogizing her on Facebook. I just wrote mine here, using the DorkFone. :-)

  5. AshleyQ Says:

    This is beautiful, Tom. It is perfectly appropriate. We will miss her so much.

    By the way, props to the DorkFone.

    • tomzone Says:

      Thanks, Basher. It’s the Mark II DorkFone, since I wore out the original.

      We will be sad and miss Lisa for a long time, but she will be one of those whom we keep alive in stories forever.

  6. You have captured, in your moving description of a dear friend, the very essence of what Lisa always was, and what she will always remain. There is no one word to describe her. There isn’t a single picture that, with its 1000 words, can convey the person that was Lisa Olson.

    Lisa and I started together in training in January of 2004. She very quickly became the one with the good words of cheer when someone was down. She took everything she did seriously, but not so much that it interfered with her being Lisa.

    Lisa went from the Customer Service side to the .com side, while I went to the Supervisory team. I was not surprised when, after a few months, she was moved to the Supervisory team. Our shifts overlapped, so I did get a chance to see her and say “Hi” most days. That was before I moved to Virginia. For a couple of years I didn’t talk with Lisa. Being in the same department, but separated by the miles, made it impossible. But I never forgot her. I would always tell “Lisa stories” when something happened that made me think of her and the things she would do.

    When I decided to move back to the Customer Service side, I again had opportunities to talk to Lisa when I would seek help from the Supervisory team. It was like we had just spoken to each other, like there wasn’t that two year gap.

    I was devastated when I heard what happened. I just couldn’t believe it. But your words here have made me smile in the memories I will always have of Lisa. And for that, I thank you

    I am sorry for the length of this reply, but when it comes to Lisa, it’s very hard to be brief. Because there was so much to say. And like you, I will miss her always. There is a hole in my world that my memories will fill someday. And you have started that process for me. Again, thanks for telling everyone about our wonderful friend, Lisa. The world is a little sadder without her.

  7. tomzone Says:

    Harold, that was beautiful. Thanks so much for your story. I talked with a number of Supervisor Team members today, and everyone had stories of “Lisa being Lisa,” and that is the highest possible compliment. I’ve forwarded your comment so it can be included in the memory book we’re assembling for the family. I know they’ll appreciate it.

    • Thank you for forwarding it. I had a lot of good friends in my time in Florida. But Lisa was special. Again, I thank you.

  8. Thanks for sharing your heart about all of this. I also said, “She knows the Secret”, to someone at work & added that I envy it all & this co-worker didn’t agree, & then some, so I felt alone in the feeling. I felt it when my Sister Debbie died, too. So, it’s so nice to see it here, but then, our Great Minds have always thought alike, to the level of, “creepy”. You comforted me through sharing that. It’s a tender image of Lisa wearing her bright, neon outfits in a fun (Great Space Coaster style) Heaven, and I’d like to add that she’ll cruise it with her cute crayon Red hair forever. I doubt roots would ever grow out There.

  9. A friend comforted me when my 42 year old cousin died of cancer. She said “Look at how the day is just a tiny bit brighter and more alive. The energy that was in Mitch is now free in the Universe.” I look at the beauty in the days a bit differently and it’s comforting.

    • Lauri, it’s funny how much more I knew about The Afterlifeâ„¢ when I was 16. Now, I know only that I DON’T know, and that makes it all the more magical to me.

      • I agree, Tom. Being able to admit that “I. Don’t. Know.” makes me feel great. Dying is the most natural thing on the planet….and in the Universe. Therefore whatever happens after it is all included in The Plan. ™.
        It will be just fine.

  10. Shannon Says:

    I am so pleased that I just stumbled upon this. This is her daughter, Shannon. I know she was one of a kind and I love knowing that she left such a mark on everyone she knew and came in contact with. Seeing things written like this about her makes my heart smile in such a time of pain. I’m not sure I know who you are that wrote this… maybe I’ve met you and just don’t realize it but thank you.

  11. [...] I don’t like to mourn for my loved ones. I want to celebrate their lives. So I wrote a tribute to [...]

    • I just had to come back and read this again as it’s been awhile. Made me smile yet again. Thanks Tom. And if you ever decide to cancel this blog or anything make sure to send me a copy of this. I still miss her more than anything and stories like this really make me realize that, of course I miss her… not only was she my mom but she kicked ass on so many levels. Cheers with a Diet Mountain Dew!

      • I toasted her with a two-liter of Diet Dew on the anniversary.

        I haven’t been writing much on this blog recently, but I won’t get rid of it. Waaaay too much of my weird life is recorded here.

        And your mom most definitely kicked-ass! :-)

        Thanks for stopping by. ts

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