Denise’s List ~ Her last gift to us

August 30, 2008

denise at waterfalls

A year ago today, my sister Denise went for an evening walk and never came home.  She was struck by a vehicle while walking on a narrow road not far from her home, and never regained consciousness before she died a short time later.  She left behind her husband, Roy, and five children; David, Brent, Keith, Alan, and Annika.  Accepting such an unexpected tragedy and loss seems inconceivable at first, but I have found comfort and solace from THE LIST she had hanging on her refrigerator all that summer.  Let me tell you about her list………

First of all, seven years ago Denise and her family moved from her home town in Minnesota, to Roy’s home town in Upper Michigan, to pursue a dream of opening their own bakery.  Along with Roy’s parents, they opened a bakery, and the long grueling hours they worked to get the bakery off the ground were incredible; twelve to sixteen hours a day, six days a week for those first few years.  Tired or not, they persisted and built a reputable business which continues today, known as Roy’s Pasties & Bakery.

After five years of working at the bakery, Denise decided to pursue some of her own dreams; she got a part time job working at the public library, which she absolutely loved, and was able to spend more time with her family and friends.  Though she had lived in Michigan for six years, most of that time was spent working at the bakery, so last summer she decided to experience the beauty and pleasures of Michigan like a tourist.  She wrote herself a list of the places she wanted to go, the things she wanted to do, and set out to do them. This is what she had written on her list:

Goals to Do this Summer
pick strawberries
pick blueberries
go fishing
Great Sand Bay
Bete Grise
agate hunting
gentle hikes
Watch a sunset over Lake Superior
camp/cabin at McClains Park
agate hunting with Laura
find the waterfalls with Annika

One by one she tackled her list with enthusiasm, and by the end of summer Denise had almost everything crossed off her list, proof to herself that she had accomplished those simple pleasures she had wished for. The weekend before Labor Day she went camping with her family at McClains Park, and there she watched the sun setting on Lake Superior; those were the last goals left on her list.  After returning home from camping, Denise took down her completed list and tossed it into the waste basket.  After her unexpected death just a few days later, her family retrieved the crumpled list and lovingly hung it once more on the refrigerator, as evidence for all of us that Denise had indeed, finished her list.

When I look at her list, I find a miracle and a gift.  This list of simple pleasures meant so much to Denise that she had pictures taken to chronicle most of the events; and each picture shows her with a happy, contented expression. God in His wisdom gave Denise the gift of time to finish her list.  But much more so, this list is a gift to us, her family, to know that the last summer of her life was filled with precious moments and memories of simple pleasures that she thoroughly enjoyed.  I miss my sister Denise so much, but I have found peace with her death through her last gift to us, her simple list.

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4 Responses to “Denise’s List ~ Her last gift to us”


  1. Cheryl–Thank You for the Beautiful Tribute you have written for us about Denise. I often feel that words cannot convey the depth of our feelings, but God certainly has given you that “Gift”. And because of that Gift, we all have a “Precious Gift” to hold close to our hearts, along with all our “Memories” of our “Dear Denise”. One year has gone by since that tragic night, and though the way has been filled with sorrow, it is such a comfort to also have this ‘Beautiful Tribute’ you have written for us all. –Mom

  2. Cheryl Says:

    Melissa,
    Thank you for your kind words about Denise, and Brent and Carmen. Knowing that others have been touched by her life helps us find peace with losing her. I know that her values and her contagious love for life will live on in her children, as you have seen with Brent and Carmen.
    Cheryl


  3. Hello to all of Denise’s loved ones,
    Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of knowing Denise, but I do know her presence is felt out here in California. As most of your probably know just weeks before Denise’s passing Brent (Denise’s son) and Carmen (my colleague) were married and ventured out to California to follow there dreams. Reading the above story of simple pleasures gives me one more layer of understanding as to the depth of Carmen and Brent’s love for one another. Carmen started working with me just before Denise passed away. We were all shocked and deeply saddened by their tragic loss. I believe Denise must be fulfilled to know that Carmen and Brent are also enjoying the simple pleasures of life. They take care of eachother lovingly, explore their new found territory with excitement and enjoy the simple pleasures of sunshine, sand, delicious muffins and friendship! Certainly, Denise’s values and priorities will live on in this new generation! I wish all of your peace and a lifetime of simple pleasures! Sincerely, Melissa

  4. Julie Says:

    That was so beautiful, Mom! Thinking of you today… Denise’s vibrant personality and the way she loved life was inspirational. “The List” was a beautiful reminder to us all to enjoy life, to take time to make memories, and to cherish each special moment and accomplishment.


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