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.