Thursday, November 30, 2017

Awakening the Warrior Spirit part 1:

The year 1991, the year I turned 21 years old, marked the full awakening of my fiery spirit from the depths of its smothered slumber. I was living in Nottingham, UK, as a Philosophy student from northeastern Iowa. It was here, I discovered the power of my inner Strength, Resilience and Passions rolled into one to focus creativity, empathy and awareness -- a Warrior instilled with Justice, Compassion, and Perseverance.  Those first five months I grew in my reflection-- exercising my soul. Preparing for life ahead.

In June of 1991, I returned to the states. A spontaneous road trip to Madison, WI found a close friendship developing into full blown romance and true love. A touching of souls.  That is where I began my 26 years with Krista. We were both running...following different paths, But we fell into each other, we recognized our kindred spirits.  We shared deeply.  Truly feeling as One.

Us the Summer of 1991
This past week, I found my journal from that time in my life.  Krista is the Only person I ever let read my journal. It marked deeply personal loves and pains through poems, prose, reflections.  As I was reading the thoughts of my younger self, I found one page, A letter to me, written in Krista's unmistakable hand.  Here I share her words, and I share some of my poems from that time.

Krista's message to Christian October 11, 1991 at 3:55pm
My message to Christian if he ever finds it.
I read much pain and frustration in this talisman. I feel much pain. You are human, so complete, unaware of the strength of your humanity that you often question it? I wonder if maybe that is because our society, your "friends" and exgirlfriends continue to question your humanity. The most normal response from you would then be to question yourself.
The most attractive feature about Kent Christian McGuire is his ability to ponder, discover, realize, and communicate his findings on society. He is whole, complete, not in need of anyone to give him identity. This fullness of life, humanness, and most important love for others, makes him my favorite "possession." Though I use that word questionably, for one can not "possess" a person such as K. Christian. His identity is so strong it more than likely rubs off on others. Although they may be frightened by it, repeatedly push it away and mock it, as well as him.
He could be easy to use and maybe has been more than once. But such security in himself was allowed an even more secure human to arise from his burning heat.
It touches me to the extend of emotional overload to read of his frustration with society, and especially his love/pain.
My existence in his life is still too fresh and too young to make much of a dent in his armour, but as you may have seen, I've received some recognition and bright spots among his words. My only hope is that I may be good to him, good for him, and emote love, insight and even some other looks of our world from him. I wish I could protect him from his pain, be it himself or society, but I can't I haven't, I most likely won't ever be able to. But today, I love him, and try to give to him; to maintain his humanity, not diminish it, to give  him hope and much learned optimism in his future.
My dreams of him include those things others rejected; the life ahead, the poems…. This is not the actions of one involved in relationships just for sex, these are the actions of one in love.  I hope to receive such love in romantic and everlasting ways. I ache for him when he is not here. I owe much to you, my love, Kent Christian McGuire.
Putting aside my fears of 25 years down the road, that you and I will have parted -- and you read this passage - and maybe even feel that same pain of heartbreak, I advance to inform you of my everlasting love. I only hope I can remove your pain and fulfill you. And Now I know.
With all my love,
Krista.
 
I do not remember her ever writing in my journal, so to come across her words at this time of my re-awakened spirit is significant.  She knew me.  I knew her.

On October 2, 1993 we formally pledged our souls to each other.  Her vows full of significance, relating her knowledge of my soul and her unconditional love.
I promise to share with you my life, my love, and my way of being.
I will accept you for what you have been, are today and will become.
I will cherish your presence and grieve in your absence
I will respect you and listen to you and care for you from now unto the boundaries of time.
I will always love her, and champion her spirit and our children.  I love you Krista.
=
Some of the significant poems which mark my awakening:

The Warrior (January 30th, 1991) 
Turn out the lights, let the silence consume me
Reflection my solace, no drink to confuse
I think of the past, of the present, what will be
My mind floats free and content with the muse

I walk on a trail through a forest of Life
It leads to the mountains which cradle the sky
I climb steady on and the range fills my sight
As my spirit cries out to find its guiding light

I then reach the summit, the warrior appears
We sit and break bread and then she draws me near
She tells of the strength found in Love and in Peace
But warns me this Right path is not one of ease

We train on the mountain and she primes my soul
To strive for this good which is now my goal
Ready for home, I take a firm stance
For Justice, Compassion, and Perseverance

I leap off the mountain, freed from my chains
And fly over deserts and desolate plains
They both appear ugly, but something's awry
Perhaps I'll see clearer the higher I fly.

No clouds above me, my thoughts spring and flow
I open my heart and look down below
I now see their beauty, I now gained insight
A balanced perfection with the mountains height. 
Llanberis, Wales at the foot of Snowdon (Dec. 1990)
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Xen Journal entry, October 22, 1990
He slipped through the bars of Light
And watched as the macro- and microcosms
merged into one.
At Infinity the cosmos is viewed holistically
And the reason why a nail can spell the
outcome of a war is apparent

I am sister, brother
father, mother
son, daughter
to all things living, non-living
existent and unreal.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Xen Journal entry, February 4, 1991
I would like to see a people whose government is set up to protect the Land and yet at the same time Lay no official claims to it.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Xen's Journal entry: February 20, 1991 2:03am (Nottinhgam)
There's a head froze in nobility
Which answers to their charity
And a tail that binds society
To the flip-side of morality

Going forward, looking backwards
The rowboat veers from steady course
The ocean creeps in through the floorboards
To sink the captain and his ship

The bright sons of lurid men
Deny their minds to the latter's call.
"Mos Maiorum" has poisoned them
Now we know Rome didn't fall.

There's a head of cracked virility
Crumbling to us peacefully
And the tail that bound society
Now answers to our cry.
The Trent Building at the University of Nottingham
Where I had my Philosophy classes

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Xen's Journal entry February 23, 1991 18:57 (Nottingham) [Lyric for Song #5]
His heart is guarded by an iron framework
of bones and muscle for sound resolution.
His appearance is plain and he wears no tie
He is the warrior for social evolution.

Senatorial drunks with their minds on gold
are deeply potted in their feet of clay
And the radical punks with their statements so bold
balance the stagger of the formers' sway.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Xen's Journal February 26, 1991 
18:54 (Nottingham)
We are the children of those who make pointless law
They never wished for our songs to be sung.
Never a cry from us, not even why from us
We never question so we remain young.

The Trip

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Xen's journal entry, March 4, 1991, 16:10 (Nottingham)--
I hope that each day will approach me better...
Torn by the passions of Love and Hate
I'm never to pass through Heaven's Gate
Too many interests, not enough space
Too many concepts for one mind to embrace
Running wild, through the grey maze
The trees stand and wonder as the the southside sheep graze.
Its Rationalists Bullshit they try to amaze
So instead of reading I dream in this haze
Theories aren't Truths not even when tested
They disguise their wolves in logical vestments
Abstracted fairly-land with no apparent goal
Pragmatic Method is my way to go.
=-=
(notes: This became the acoustic section for Song #4 by my neo-Prog Rock band "Solar Plexus". - This just flowed from my pencil after receiving a very good grade on a BS philosophy paper I wrote in my Moral Philosophies of Hume & Kant at the University of Nottingham. - I was p^$$!d because I felt I merely mined my lecture notes rather than brought anything of my original thought to the paper. This piece also marks my dissatisfaction in any knowable Metaphysics (and the pointlessness waste of brain power in Apologetics as a means to understand objective reality and thereby any significant universal moral code derived from its practice--no matter how logical) - The "tree people" and "sheep" was a reference to a discussion on Hilary Putnam in my Recent Metaphysics and Epistemology Class. It was really here where I really began my journey into the American philosopher, John Dewey. )

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Xen Journal May, 30, 1991
There is a necessary distinction between Faith and Despair.
Faith is belief Regardless
Despair is belief just in case.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Xen journal February 11, 1998 8:30pm (St. Paul; Como Park)
The wood is fading on the frame
The Clock is ticking on.
One hand measures thoughts foreseen
One for life fleeting by.
A picture stands upon a shelf
The years are counted in dust
Its window's cracked, but still I see
Her eyes which first cried with me.
Radiant stands of wavy hair
and winter blue are her eyes
They pierced my heart to know my soul
And drew my love to her..




My vows to Krista on October 2, 1993
On this day I pledge you my love, my spirit, and my life.
When you are ill I shall be healer
When you are lost in a frantic world, I shall find a path to bring you back.
When you feel alone, know that you are not forgotten and that my heart is still with you
When you feel in a state of anguish, I will provide and support and comfort you with Reason and Compassion
When you are happy, I will share in your joy.
These are the things which I pledge with my life. And whether I lead or follow I shall live it with you.
Xen's Journal
=-=-=-=

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sandstrom-McGuire Family Victim Impact Statement

Below is the Victim Impact Statement I read before the court, my children, and Krista's killer.  I stood at a podium in front of Judge Karasov and read:

Dear Judge Karasov;

I am Kent Christian McGuire. I am 47 years old, and I am the husband of Krista Lynn Sandstrom, father to our children, Soren Nils Harrison Sandstrom-McGuire (age 13) and Birgitta Eleanor Rose Sandstrom-McGuire (age 11).  Krista and I first met in November of 1989.  We were 19, we met in college choir, she a soprano, me a baritone.  During practice I looked across the rows, admiring the natural beauty and bearing of this Earth Goddess whose sea-blue eyes, shared by our daughter, and perfect complexion were devoid of cosmetics; her locks of long, wavy coppery-brown hair free from styling product the same hair that now is seen on our children.  We got to know each other better during a choir tour.  Over two years we developed a friendship, discovering our birthdays were merely 2 days apart, that we shared the same interests in social and environmental justice, in music, in personal accountability, in scholarship, in nature, the outdoors, in humor, in obscure trivia.  She introduced me to her love of Dance, choreography, and Vikings football, and I introduced her to new music, treating her with songs I had written. We discovered that we were matched, and thus began dating in June of 1991 and marrying on October 2, 1993 in an outdoor ceremony of our own creation.

I have reflected a lot in these months since the death of my love, struggling to write an adequate statement which could encapsulate the 26 years of our shared life.   This past week I have been writing through the tears, recalling those times of Love, Joy, and Togetherness in action.  Which are woven in with my regrets of those times I wish I could do over, when I know I failed her on account of my carelessness.

By every measure Krista Lynn Sandstrom exceeded the virtues of what one might define as a remarkable woman.  She was quick-witted, intelligent, and compassionate. Possessed a rare insight into the full range and depth of human emotions, an empathetic soul, willing to offer her shoulder for those in grief.

I am in awe of Krista.  I wanted to share her every success, every bit of love and wisdom she had with anyone I could tell.  I wanted to do this, champion my wife every day she lived.  But that was not Krista's style.  She avoided the spotlight.  Nevertheless I was awarded the privilege to witness Krista at work, at play, at mothering, at love.  I learned so much from her simply by holding her each night as she openly unloaded, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying about her day.  Talking about her projects, her plans, her dreams, her coworkers, her friendships. Emoting about the things she loved, hated, what stressed her out and what brought her joy and engagement.  I always knew my wife was brilliant but that giving spirit of hers became tangible with the 100s of voices of those upon whom Krista had made a positive impact. 

Anyone who ever had the opportunity to meet Krista…to see her in action, got a mere glimpse of what I knew.  In conversation, she was a woman who could easily get at the heart of any matter. There was never a stumble between her soul, intellect and voice.  She could easily convey the essence of any topic, weeding through the unnecessary clutter; Expressing the context of the big picture to see its potential for success and its possible pitfalls.  She would already speak to all of this, while everyone else at the table struggled to grasp the basic concept.  She was far beyond her peers. Though she had a genuine empathy and caring soul, time and again, her wisdom and intellect could be intimidating to those of fragile ego. 

Krista packed a lot into her all too brief life.  And I feel she was never given a break. Everything Krista got is something she planned for, worked toward and earned  She was not one to leave things to chance.  She is a self made woman - a success story. 

A resume can only convey so much, but as I spent my life standing by my wife, cheering her successes,  I am going to start by sharing some of her career highlights. 

Krista earned a double major: B.A.s in Anthropology and History from Luther College in 1992,  Afterward she opted not to pursue a  Graduate degree in her desired field of Cultural Anthropology. Instead she sought a rewarding career in Executive Leadership and Organization Development.  Along the way she earned a Master's in Education and a PhD in Organization Development from the University of Minnesota.

During Krista's career she held positions as: Director of Organization Development and Learning at Hennepin County Medical Center; Senior Principal Human Resource Consultant and Senior Organization Development and Diversity Manager at Medtronic; Principal Associate of Learning and Development at Guidant and for 7 years, she was Leadership Development Consultant, Field Leader Support at American Express Financial Advisors in which she was the Strategic partner and consultant for sales VPs in 8 Market Groups across the U.S. (particularly Boston, New York and DC) ; first point of contact for support in strategic development and execution, employee issue resolution, and employee development.

She worked full time as a high level HR professional, While putting herself through graduate school, teaching graduate level courses in Leadership and Organization Development at the University of Minnesota. Being a mother, volunteering at her children's school, coaching her daughters softball team, singing with the Minnesota Chorale and the SPCO Chorale. Volunteering at the Humane Society… Even her battle with thyroid cancer and her ongoing struggles with the medication after her 2011 thyroidectomy did not diminish her capacity to excel.

She was renown for her coaching skills in Executive Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organization Development.  Skills which regrettably were under-utilized in recent years.

In a work environment where the norm is for people to play games of power positioning, who take credit for others efforts, who hold superficial "check-the-box" attitudes which yield no real results, Krista's honest work ethic would not and could not ever let her stop at the mediocre, let alone the superficial.  Everything she did, everything she created she ensured it was well planned and carried through with care and success. She did not work to get praise, to be put on a pedestal, she did work because it need to get done….and she enjoyed it. In all things I am reminded of her mantra:

Seek to Understand ~ Assume Positive Intent

She was a brilliant leader who expected everyone to bring their best.  Her credentialed and practiced expertise in Education as well as her fiscal business aptitude would never allow her to rob her employees, her team, her organization with subpar products and Fads, such as online training modules in a Learning Management System designed just so that people could say that they had taken the training, checked the box and moved-on.  This is a waste money and because ultimately no one really learns anything.   No, her valued experience knew that online training was a fiscal drain. She was an expert in employee engagement. The needs of the employees valued constant hands-on experience, integrating these soft-skills  into practice each and every day.  The mark of a great leader, a great coach is to recognize the diversity of backgrounds, the strengths and weaknesses of every employee; to engage them on a  personal level.   

When I would hear of her difficulties with the short -ighted visions, incompetence, and downright meanness of others, I would find myself roaring out the door, keys in hand intending to come to her work place, shake people up and exclaim, "Listen to my wife, She knows her stuff!"  While that action might provide temporary satisfaction for me, I knew such an act would ultimately backfire.  Besides, it does not reflect Krista's way.  Even in those instances where she was unfairly targeted, not just from colleagues, but from friends and relatives,, she would calmly engage her wise-mind with a maturity so rare among adults today, keeping the big picture in mind, her ego in check, and creatively seek solutions to affect the positive change necessary.

When I was angry and wanted to rashly jump in to her defense, She would utter to me, "Do you want to be Right?  Or do you want to be Effective."

I desired to have her with me at all times, to have her guidance with the kids but we knew her work was important, and her integrity would not let her blow off a project where she knew she could do good. Frequently she would call and ask how late she could stay before coming home. Trusting that I had home life running smoothly.

I still remain quite angry with the way Krista's intellect and experience was undervalued be lesser men in authority who are instead prone to vanity and ego stroking by power positioners with no virtue and no talent. They had no real comprehension of her brilliance. I am still livid and I do not think I will ever get over that.

While often co-workers stuck to their assigned hours --- sometimes even leaving early because they felt like they needed a break,  Krista routinely stayed hours afterward-- already working the equivalent of 3 full time jobs, knowing that the work never stopped and the work had to get done.  For years when she begged --  pleaded for more headcount so that she could focus on implementing the needs of her organization, she was last year rewarded with a final incompetent insult by having her team taken away;; setting back the progress that the good and intelligent guidance her peer-reviewed scholarship and 20 years of leadership expertise commanded. 

And this reward created in her even more stress and  took her valuable time away from her family, her children.

But just when it seemed her plate was too full to manage: she would still find time to help others -- taking on more work.  Even those nights when she was supposed to be resting at home, while we were supposed to have our time as husband and wife; having our conversations of love and parenting, she would find herself grading and commenting on projects from her UofM Graduate students. Suddenly she would get a late night work related plea from her VP  such as this actual quote: 

"Krista, I can use your urgent help and counsel...I am facilitating a discussion with senior business leaders and their regional teams tomorrow morning. We have candid input (via an anonymous survey) of what is working/not working. What hints and tips can you give me on facilitating the discussion. Reply by e-mail as I am going to sleep."  Krista on the other hand, did not sleep but dutifully put together his request.


But then even after all that work she was underappreciated - as she would be asked to take even more time away from her strategic planning and Leadership coaching, leaving home early Wednesday mornings and some Saturdays so that she could do the mundane grunt work of delivering yoga mats to a morning resiliency class. Everyone knew this was far below the experienced skill set, her education and the $130,000 salary her work life commanded, but she knew if she didn't do it, No One would!

So yes, I am still pissed at that. I am her champion and I was unable because of my career limitations to pull her out of that toxic environment.  She loved her work, but she just needed to be surrounded by competency without BS and dishonest game playing.

-- But despite my anger there was so much joy and love with Krista. Her life, and her mind was not limited her career loves and teaching. Her active, strategic mind and diligence was constantly engaged.

It has been well noted that Krista loved to sing. And I was so proud when the news reports came in identifying her after her death.  They referred to her first as a Singer.  She began to study voice seriously 18 years ago with Harriet McCleary.  Harriet opened Krista's voice and her soul.  Krista practiced and developed an effortless coloratura voice and ultimately became one of 20 contracted singers of the 250 singers in the Minnesota Chorale. This was done through her efforts and practice ethic. As a professional musician and college educator, I am not exaggerating when I say that Krista probably had the equivalent of a Graduate Degree in Music Performance -- without actually having a credentialed music degree.
[Krista, dress rehearsal for 2017 Carmina Burana with Minnesota Orchestra, Chorale and Dance Theatre;
 Krista after performance with Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale]

In 2002, We built a 1,500 square foot addition to our home together.  We taught ourselves how to use the tools, learn the techniques and make our vision come to reality.  We found, installed and refinished reclaimed oak floorboards from a 1920s era mansion on Lake Harriet for our living room.  We custom fit 600 feet of knotty pine wood to create flooring for our master bedroom and bath. Rescued a 1918 clawfoot tub from a home in Northeast Minneapolis, We hung, taped and mudded countless sheets of drywall, doing the electrical, plumbing, and finish work  The only thing we did not do was the framing, roofing and siding. This addition to our 1940 Cape Cod style home, with full basement addition and deck were Krista's designs.  There is not a part of our shared home for the past 21 years that have not been touched by Krista's care.

I miss Krista.  She is the only person I ever wanted and ever loved. 

I cry every day over her loss. Looking back on our marriage when I felt I was letting her down, she  thanked me time and again for creating for her a safe space, that she did not fear coming home; that she could share with me -- anything without worry of judgment.  In the weeks before she was killed and I felt I had failed her for the 1,000th or so time.  I asked her  "Why do you love me?" - She hugged me, held me close and looked into my soul with her unforgettable sea-blue eyes, smiled and said, "I just know my type." It is a minor consolation that the last message I received from Krista sent 2 hours before she was killed, was a text with the simple statement, "Love you too."
 
I miss sharing Autumn with her.  It is OUR time of year, it is when we married, and when we would spend our Sundays together.  I would wake up, get out the iron skillet and make a Breakfast of eggs, peppers, tomatoes, cheese and bacon, cut up fresh honeydew, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, with a fresh cup of coffee and bring it up to Krista along with the newspaper which I had opened to the section where she could do her Sudoku.  I would then join her as we finished the Crossword together while watching CBS Sunday morning.  Afterward we would make our homemade pizza and popcorn so we could spend the rest of Sunday downstairs on the couch watching Football (she loved Vikings football especially Defense and Special Teams play), eating pizza and drinking wine, legs intertwined under the blanket until it was time to go upstairs and watch Masterpiece Theatre or some History or Science documentary in bed.    

I miss her voice, her joy, her wisdom, her quick wit, her service to others.
I miss watching her brain at work; methodically tackling problems.
I miss her not backing down from a challenge. She could overcome anything.
I miss watching her wield power tools with ease as we learned how to build our home together.
I miss volunteering with her at the Humane Society and filling our home with rescue pets.
I miss her tending her garden of Minnesota Wild Flowers.  
I miss bringing her oatmeal and coffee in the morning, I miss her commenting everyday that no one makes coffee as good as I do.
I miss her delight with my improvised marinara sauce, and miss her attempts to choke down those cooking experiments which turned out less than stellar.
I miss her eclectic readings, from biographies on Eleanor Roosevelt, to prairie life, to books on medieval leprosy.
I miss going to the historical society and having us geek out with the state Archeologist while our friends look at us as if we are speaking a foreign language.
I miss getting giddy with her over the latest discovery in Evolutionary Anthropology.  
I miss going to a new Science Museum exhibit with her, initially excited then both of us commenting to each other about how disappointing, basic, and vague the information was.
I miss her calling me out of the blue in the middle of the day to ask me the definition and etymology of a word or to translate a passage from German, Latin, Italian, Greek or any language as it turned up in conversation at work.
I miss holding her when she comes home after a long day, conversing with her about work. 
I miss performing with her, biking, and camping,
I miss her love of pottery, of Mission Style furniture, of antiques.
I miss sitting with her and watching reruns of MASH, Wagon Train, Star Trek and getting our weekly Friday evening fix of Shields and Brooks commentary on the PBS NewsHour.
I will miss celebrating our birthday's together in a double sleeping bag in a snow covered cabin.
I miss her head laying on my chest at night as I read stories aloud to her and to the kids.  
I miss the look she gave me when I was in my element, whether talking my expertise or playing music.  One look from her lightened my heart.
I miss harmonizing with her…singing Beethoven, Mozart, Elgar, Orff  before segueing into Led Zeppelin, The Beatles,  Cat Stevens and Indigo Girls.
I miss sharing our inside jokes, our shared but obscure references, the love notes and secret language we'd exchange throughout the work day. How she could do a dead-on Sean Connery impression
I miss picking her up in our master bedroom, kissing her and making the world revolve around her.
I miss her in the evenings, writing thank you notes and recommendations for friends seeking employment for some job or other.
I miss her exchanging jokes with Soren and teaching him how to tend a campfire, listening to his stories and encouraging him to write more.
I miss her swimming laps with Birgitta, coaching her in softball, making up dances with her in the Music room.
I miss skiing and sledding with her as she lets go and races down hill with Soren and Birgitta.
I miss her learning violin so that she could play in a string trio with the kids.
I miss her sewing labels into the kids clothes, and accounting for every item.
I miss our epic Halloween parties - Halloween is our family holiday in which we host friends and neighbors have chili and cider and create labyrinth games in the garage.
I miss that the woman on whom we always counted to pass on our shared values, to pass on her skills in time management, her wisdom and empathy, her mindfulness, her habits of loving actions will be absent from our children's lives. 

When you love someone, you want to do everything you can to build trust, and ensure her happiness, to give her free reign to flourish in her talents.  You value her friends who act and express to her the same desires for her well-being. You have no need for personal reward, no time for jealousy.  Just the thrill of seeing the one you love -- soar; to experience joy and success in her well-honed talents.  
It certainly helps when that one you love is woman of extraordinary character.

=-=

This summer of 2017 was to be a great one. The kids are old enough now that we would be able to spend more time with each other, to once again work on our projects together, to perform together and make new discoveries -- together.

Earlier this year  clear and heartfelt communication between us was open with new understanding.  My role as her champion, her shoulder, her dependable husband, father to her children were in full gear.   We were exercising and biking together. After 26 years, I was finally beginning to learn how to dance,  after recently learning how to swim.  She discovered that she was beginning to like jazz and began taking Saturday morning Dance classes as Dance and Theatre always remained one of her passions.   We looked forward to her learning her new mandolin so that she and I could continue to make music in a new capacity.  We once again remembered our initial love and embraced each other every night.  On May 31st, I had gotten our bikes tuned up for the summer and that evening we had laid out the reclaimed oak floorboards which we were going to finally tackle and patch that floor in our music/dance room.

We packed a lot in on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

This first day of June marked the day where we were renewing our Summer love being the 26th anniversary of our love relationship.  We had  our scheduled auditions for the Minnesota Chorale that very evening.  Looking forward to once again singing together in the Fall 2017 season with the Minnesota Orchestra. In her past 17 seasons, Krista had served on the Chorale's Board of Directors and sang as one of the few paid singers. 

Krista and I began like every other morning. I was up at 5:30, making breakfast, packed her lunch, then brought her coffee. Before waking our children.  She left for work just as the kids were waking. She had a full week, and a busy day.  She managed to rework her schedule as she had been working on a project with the EMS team, so that she could take part of the day off on Friday, June 2nd, to watch her 7th grade son perform in a talent show at his school - where he put together a band to perform Van Halen's "Jump" for which he taught himself both the keyboard and guitar parts. 

I spent most of the day preparing our yard for the new Minnesota Wild Flowers we were planning on adding on the weekend.  We texted briefly throughout the day, our last exchange occurring around 3:30 that afternoon.  At which time I went to our kids' school to help Soren's band rehearse for the talent show the next day.  We drove home, I fed the kids before biking with our 11 year old daughter to her softball game, which started at 6:30 and ran until 8:00.  Krista in the meantime had a voice lesson scheduled at 6:00 with Harriet.  She had called her at 5:30 to say she was leaving the office to come to her lesson.  After her Lesson, Krista was scheduled for her 7:00 Minnesota Chorale audition at which time she would come to Birgitta's softball game and take her home while I went to my 9:00pm Chorale audition.  Krista never showed up to the game, so I texted keeping her informed of Birgitta coming home.  I was getting no responses from her, assuming maybe her cell battery had died.

Birgitta warming up at 6:45pm on June 1st, 2017

 It was only when I arrived at my audition that I began to worry. For that was when I discovered Krista had missed her audition, I had called Harriet, her long time vocal coach who told me that Krista never showed up for her lesson. She had already failed to show up for our daughter's softball game that evening-- a game where I was anxious to show Krista, a softball coach, pictures of our daughter's throwing form.   So after my audition, I drove around Minneapolis to see if I could find her car, a Blue Honda Fit manual transmission that she had just purchased the summer before to replace the VW Golf she had driven for the past 18 years.    I could not find her car, but it turns out I did drive past the accident scene, though it did not dawn on me at the time what I had seen.  After calling 911 and Missing persons, it was suggested to me 3 times for officers to come to my house and take down a report.  I finally said, Yes, if it helps me find my wife.  So at 11:30pm Two St. Paul Police Officers came to our door and informed me that Krista had been killed.    And that she was killed before Birgitta and I even left the house for her softball  game. 

After a sleepless night, I woke our children at 5:30 and told them that the reason their mother did not come home and kiss them goodnight was that she had been killed.  Within hours of learning that their  mother had be killed our children demonstrated grief but resilience and empowerment.  Our 11 year old daughter was at first distraught then collected herself and said through her tears that we are sad now, but we are going to get through this, we are going to be strong, we are going to be happy and we are going to live the good lives that Mama intended us to live.  Our son in the meantime, duty-bound like his mother gathered himself up ate his breakfast, packed his lunch, homework and guitar and went to school to play the talent show that his mother had reworked her schedule so that she could see.    Both kids ultimately went back to school and finished out the year.

Our children demonstrated the strength their mother and  I shared.

In the days afterward, I was forewarned by the Medical Examiner that the possibility of an open casket viewing might not be possible, and the funeral director informed me that the embalming process might not work.  I did get to see my brides face one last time,  her complexion marred by lacerations, and her beautiful serene forehead looked as if it had been broken---  reset for the viewing.  The rest of her body was packed under layers of blankets. Her form did not resemble the familiar shape of my beautiful Krista -- sleeping under the quilts of our bed.

I was given the personal affects she had on at the time of the accident, her earrings and HCMC ID badge with smiling photo caked in her blood, and a lock of her hair which had grown into a shimmering silver stained with her blood.

Her body, her life , the woman who spent her loving life-- planning, thinking ahead, valuing personal responsibility, caring for others, giving totally to her children -- That beautiful vessel graced by a radiant spirit ----  had been utterly destroyed by a deliberate act of willful stupidity.


==
I have been asked repeatedly what sort of compensation I want for Krista's unfair death. What punishments I want to see meted to Krista's killer. I really don't care.  There is no price for replacing Krista.  She was a rare gift to this world. Working, Loving, and always giving.  

I am pissed that the thanks she received for her lifetime of struggle and perseverance and service to others…all of her hard work, was death by reason of willful stupidity.


Krista is the primary wage earner for our family, she always filed head of household with her yearly salary of about $130,000 per year.  I am the homemaker, adjunct college faculty and a musician. But make no mistake, Krista's life was not about money.  Money is merely the reward for her love, her sacrifice, her depth of compassion to ensure we were always secure.  Every year she ensured we had savings, invested in retirement and most of all our children's future education.  We saved, re-used, and recycled constantly, never throwing money away on unnecessary superficial accessories.  We were to continue with a  long happy life. 

Krista does not get to enjoy the rewards for her personal sacrifice, for those late evenings at work when all of her co-workers left for home to be with their families…to blow of an afternoon…she never did that because work Always had to be done. I do not get to grow old with Krista, to protect her, and to always have her in my arms. 

Krista's life is owed A LOT! From her friends, from her relatives, from her bosses, from her co-workers, from me, and from her children.  The criminal who killed Krista Sandstrom owes a lot.  Not just to Krista, but to those other families and people he has negatively impacted before he killed Krista. I cannot help but think and mourn for his family. This is certainly not the life they envisioned for him.  Knowing that someone they loved killed an innocent woman, a mother of two who was warming up her voice while driving to her lesson in her new car?  I know they feel pain.

Neither Krista nor I believed in vengeance but we valued Obligation.  Vengeance is an immature and weak gut reaction which robs the soul from peace and ultimately has no positive outcome for either party.  Since the death of my Krista, I have not cared one wit about the defendant.  The little I learned about him left the me and the rest of society with the impression that he is weak.  There is no strength; there is nothing to admire in the character he has publicly presented.  I have never lost any sleep over thinking about him. Because I did not think about him at all.  As the summer moved along and the prosecution kept me informed of the case. Each update only served to confirm my impression of his weakness.  After his initial rejection of the plea deal, I just blew it off thinking "whatever" and moved on because he was obviously very afraid and I am not going to waste my time on pettiness.

The tiniest flicker of strength he has ever shown the world, is when he came back two (2) days later to admit guilt.  For me, our family … and for Krista, this was a very small step in a positive direction.

Your honor, you have read the written Victim Impact Statements from others, and I dare say you have probably  read a lot of anger from colleagues, friends, and relatives.  But I am entitled the fact that no one's anger; no one's pain can possibly be as great as mine.

I am not content with any sentence if it merely means the defendant gets to sit in prison and make no effort to change.  He stole my wife's life. He robbed me of my partner.  He killed the mother of our children.  The ONLY way he can possibly even begin to pay this debt, is for him to dedicate the rest of his life to live the values Krista Lynn Sandstrom lived. 

He needs to step it up, find inner strength and look outside of himself. He must begin each day with the thought of how he can make the lives of those around him better.  This is not anything he can turn himself over to a higher power to do.  No, this is something he needs to find within himself, find his own strength, to grow up.  When he was arrested, he claimed to be a member of some gang. So what.  Whether he is a member or not, I charge him with the responsibility to stand up to them, to overcome his fear and use his inner strength to turn that group into a force for positive change.  Insist that they repay the pain they have inflicted on the families they have hurt through their pathetic and weak-minded actions.  If he is afraid to do that, If he continues to live in fear, if he is afraid of that pathetic gang, if he is afraid of personal abuse he might suffer in prison. So what.  Fear is weakness  The worst they can do is kill him. And if he is afraid of that, then he has not found strength and he will forever remain truly weak and parasite.

I will settle for no less than this.  But I am not going to lose sleep over him or any thoughts of retribution he might harbor for me since I am calling him out on his weakness.  Let me perfectly clear, Threats of Violence and Destruction are acts of Cowardice.  The greatest power and greatest show of strength is through acts of creation, of building.

Justice for Krista does not end with this sentencing hearing.  It does not end with the punishment and reform of her killer.  Anyone who has ever driven tipsy, anyone who has ever broken the speed limit, ran a red light, anyone who has ever gotten pissed at another driver and cut them off out of rage.  Could just as easily killed my wife. I am also still mad at those who have ever maligned Krista simply by her virtue of being honest, kind-hearted, thoughtful and diligent.  Far too often I saw her get punished for her good deeds. In life she gave everything she could of herself and then some. And was constantly kicked down because of it.

I have not said nearly …not nearly enough about Krista Lynn Sandstrom. But I hope that I have painted a close enough picture for you to reveal the person she was.  She just wanted people to be Honest with themselves, with each other, with reality; wanted everyone to strive for good through thoughtful actions, to take accountability for themselves, and not neglect those in need.   

In the days shortly after my wife was killed, I stated publicly that Krista is someone whom everyone should aspire to be.  Take that with you - And Live It--- then we can have the kind of world that Krista and I want for our own Children.


Krista Lynn Sandstrom valued actions and results.  Words and promises are nice, but they need to be followed through and acted upon with constant care for any trust to be built.

I will end my statement with this anniversary message I made to my wife.

Krista,
 It is not enough to say, "I love you" - Hearing you sing, watching you dance; swim; witness your wise counsel, your noble and pragmatic character in action.  Let me share your dreams.  My world brightens at your smile; it rocks with your laughter.  Running, walking, laying down beside you.  Why would anyone depart such a lovely and virtuous character- for the search for what is good and beautiful begins and ends with you!  Share with me your dreams, fears and hopes.  I will forever be and always remain your champion!"
Love,
Christian



Thank you your honor.

For more on Krista:
http://www.xenmcguire.com/2017/06/krista-lynn-sandstrom.html