With trial over, Olson family takes time to mournNow, the family of Katherine Ann Olson can grieve.
By: Jon Avise, South Washington County Bulletin
Now, the family of Katherine Ann Olson can grieve.
The trial of Michael John Anderson, convicted of killing Katherine in October of 2007, is over; the 20-year-old has been sentenced to life behind bars for taking the life of an effervescent 24-year-old woman who made her family members’ lives “wonderfully chaotic.”
“A lot of people say, ‘Well, this will bring closure,’” said Katherine’s mother, Nancy Olson as she prepared to repaint the living room in the family’s Cottage Grove home, one way she’s coping with the post-trial calm. “It brings closure to the legal process, mostly, but it means we can turn our attention to nothing but pure mourning.”
“The legal process is over,” says Katherine’s father, Rev. Rolf Olson, “but we don’t have Katherine.”
Parents Rolf and Nancy miss an exciting, loving daughter; sister Sarah Richter told the court she misses mid-day phone conversations and mourns a sister’s wedding that will never take place; brother Karl longs for his best friend.
Sunday, they will celebrate Katherine with a tribute concert at Eden Prairie’s Grace Church, “A Tribute to Katherine,” which features performances celebrating the 2002 Park High School valedictorian’s love of music and performing arts. Proceeds benefit a memorial scholarship fund in her name at St. Olaf College.
It will be a chance to celebrate and heal, sing, dance and have fun. It’s an opportunity for hundreds to gather, her family says, and remember not Katherine’s senseless death, but her life.
They’ll swap “Katherine stories” — tales of an always-evolving young woman, making her mind up one day and changing it the next, with plans to travel the world again before starting graduate school. And they’ll mourn the loss of new ones to tell.
“Those are the kinds of things that just leave me profoundly sad,” Nancy said. “There’s such a void. She came into every room with her curls bouncing and this big smile on her face. She’ll never do that again.”
Nancy, the minister’s wife, says her faith has undergone a serious test. Katherine’s death has left her wrestling with “messy questions” to which she says there are no answers.
“But the thing we keep coming back to (is) where is God?” she said. “God is in the community of people who surrounded us and suffered with us. They voluntarily entered the pain and suffering and anxiety with us.”
The support of hundreds who have grieved with the family has softened the blow, Rolf said. Dozens of family and friends packed the Scott County courtroom in Shakopee each of the trial’s eight days, helping the family through the stressful, traumatic ordeal. Cards from well-wishers packed the Olson’s mailbox during the trial and still trickle in, a handful-or-so of them arriving each day.
It helps, they say. But now, without the focused, exhaustive intensity of the trial, they’re left to grapple with the questions and the anger that linger.
“The absolute trauma of Katherine’s death has passed and has eased into more of just a kind of dark cloud or a heaviness that just hangs over us all the time,” Rolf Olson said. “All the time.”
Karl, 23 years old and just out of college, isn’t sure what he’ll do next as he searches for some direction, feeling derailed by his sister’s death.
“My life has this systematic feel right now, where I don’t know what’s beyond three months down the road because I couldn’t think too far down the road,” he said. “I didn’t want to deal with — couldn’t deal with — decisions that didn’t directly, immediately affect me.”
He misses his sister, his friend. He misses the chaos.
“We need to discover who we are and what the new normal is,” Nancy said. “Who are we now? You take the pain into your life; if you want to be an authentic person, then you have to know who you are and we don’t know that yet.”