Mary Olson

Mary Olson

Feb 01, 1947 - Aug 23, 2021

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Sarah Olson

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Mary Olson

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For years now we’ve all known my mom has struggled with health issues. We were told so long ago that she only had a short time left. You’d think that might have prepared us, her family, for this enormous loss. What I know now is that it didn’t. It couldn’t. We couldn’t have imagined the depth of the hole left behind by her absence. What I also know is that those doctors didn’t know my mom. This was one strong woman who fought way beyond the years she had been given. She fought to see me get married, to see hers daughters lives grow and blossom, to see more grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who she loved so deeply, come into her life, and most of all she fought to spend more days with the love of her life- my dad.

It’s hard to know where to begin to tell you all about my mom. But, as her family, we wanted to share some of the things we loved so much about who she was to us. Every morning that she’d call my sisters or I, she’d start with “Good Morning, Pretty Girl.” After so many years of health concerns, I always saved voicemails of hers as a bit of a superstition. Now, I’m so glad I was such a weirdo because I have a whole phone full of Good Morning Pretty Girl voicemails that I can share with my sisters to put a smile on our faces on the hardest days to come.

My mom was a determined woman, to say the least. After having open heart surgery, 4 weeks before my wedding, she wouldn’t allow me to cancel or postpone the event. Instead, we got her doctors on the phone, called the remote hospital near my wedding site and inquired about securing helicopter transfer insurance- so if needed we could feel safe. As expected, she arrived on time and as planned, not so expected, she danced and laughed the night away. Wherever I was, be it California, Italy or Hawaii, my mom was there to support me and my crazy ideas and adventures. She didn’t always agree with them, which she wasn’t afraid to let me know. But, she always came around to support me and cheer me on towards success, or give me a shoulder to cry on when there was defeat. In Italy, when my daughter, Finley, was still a baby and a toddler, her dad was in the Navy and gone all the time, 11 out of our first 12 months there. My mom would Skype in 5 nights a week for dinner my time with Finley and I so we wouldn’t feel alone- even though there was a 9 hour time difference.

She loved all of her daughters so much. Sometimes we felt like we were competing with the City of Elkhart for her love and time. But, really deep down, I’m pretty sure she loved us more. Joking- kind of… She knew there was so much she could do to make the world a little better for all of us. So, she did it. Every day. She put her heart and soul into her community and meeting its needs. She always loved a good fight and never ran from a chance to stand up for something she believed in. I learned what true compassion, bravery, and strength was from her. She always worried about the career path I’ve chosen for myself in documentary films. To be honest, it’s not very secure. It takes constant hustle. But, when my last film came out on working class women in progressive politics (not my mom’s thing at all) she was the first to say through tears, how wrong she was and what an important story I was telling for women and working class people and just how proud she was of me. Really, I think I do what I do because of my mom. We just want to give back in different ways.

My mom always loved road trips and driving. She always said if she weren’t on City Council, she’d love to be a truck driver. I bet no one expected to hear that.

Our mom was a consummate hostess. She LOVED to throw a good party. She loved a good gin and tonic with a cup of coffee. Holidays growing up, we always had a smattering of random people at our dinner table- those who didn’t have family nearby or a place to go. I loved that. We always knew as kids we could invite anyone over and my mom would make popcorn and break out the snacks. She loved our family trips to Mexico and baking in the sun with a margarita in hand and Big D by her side.

She loved to torment her girls with talk of the weather and being careful of deer in the road. She was so entertained by scaring us. Sometimes she’d stand in our doorways doing a sinister laugh. Muaahhhhaaaa! As kids, she’d hide and jump out at us, especially during Halloween. She loved Halloween and went all out on costumes when we were little. I love that she had that crazy side to her only we saw. My sister Juli is terrified of the supernatural. Starting from when she was very little, she would say to my mom, “when you die, don’t come visit me to tell me you’re okay. I’ll just know you’re okay.” My mom would just say you won’t know where and you won’t know when, but I’ll come visit you to make sure you know. The thing is, Juli was serious. So, now we are sure my mom will visit her first.

Being Norweigen and keeping up traditions was so important to my mom. Every year we had a day, just before Christmas where we all helped make lefse, a Norweigen delicacy. It will be the hardest day of this year for me after this week.

My mom was deeply grateful for what she had and had a deep love of God. She would always say “We’re so blessed” about anything big or small where it came to her love of my dad and us girls. Her love of my dad was something to behold. They were opposites for sure. Yet, they complimented each other in so many ways. She was his Baby Doll and he was her Chicken. They had a love that though not perfect, was perfect for them. They showed my sisters and I every single day that love was a choice. They chose to put each other before everything else, chose to love through good times and bad, and chose to love each other to the very end.

Today, as we are dressed up in our finest to say goodbye, I know my mom would’ve had one last thing to say to my sisters and I.

You need a little Lipstick

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