In Memory of Denise

It is hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember.

Today the world lost a special person, my dear friend Denise. We’d been friends since the day we met, only two years ago at a planning meeting for Little Black Dress. I didn’t know then what kind of impression she would make on my life and it is with a very heavy heart that I grieve her loss.

Denise was the type of person who was adored by everyone she met. She had a contagious smile, a loving heart, a fighter’s strength, and a glorious soul. She was never more than a phone call away, even with her crazy schedule of juggling motherhood, work, and being a breast cancer awareness advocate. There is no way to fully express her impact in the community and in my own life.

This past Friday I was blessed to have spent time with Denise over one of our shared passions — wine. During those few hours we shared together, Denise offered me a compliment on how inspired she was with all my “running success”. Thinking back, I have a heavy heart that I was not able to verbally share with her how inspirational she has been in my life and thank her for the many moments of wisdom and advice she has offered me.

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This is something I will always regret, not telling her that she was more than just a good friend to me, but also a mentor. Every moment spent with her urged me to be a better person. As one of the numerous sentiments said on her Facebook profile, “This vibrant woman taught me so much about living life, caring for one’s self, and caring for others.” This says it simply and clearly; there are few people who made a better role model than Denise.

A breast cancer survivor and advocate, Denise was one of the strongest women I have ever met. She put her entire heart into every aspect of her life. From planning social events to kick cancer’s butt to sharing her infectious laugh on the local radio morning show to being an awesome mother to her three kids, Denise was a superstar. She was the very definition of “inspiration”.

Only yesterday I received an email from Denise that not only showed her energy and fun-loving spirit, but also demonstrated one of her passions: “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact I had breast cancer…not one single day. (even though I was diagnosed 8 years ago) That’s probably because despite the fact you can beat the disease, it leaves behind scars, not only on your body but your mind.  Thinking about my cancer journey daily isn’t bad, it’s just become part of the routine…like brushing your teeth, putting on perfume and picking out what bad-ass pair of shoes you want to wear that day to go take on the world!” The tragedy of her loss has sent shock waves throughout the entire Michiana community.

For someone who fought so hard to make sure she was present to watch her children grow up, and in turn fought for others to also have that same opportunity, her death is crushingly depressing. It is confusing. And it is unfair.

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As Denise’s family and friends begin their journeys of grief, its difficult to know how to move forward. It’s difficult to imagine a world without this warrior in it. There will always be a crater in our lives where Denise once stood, but perhaps with thoughts of her laughter and good works we may attempt to find understanding in this stunning event.

Even with the imminent sadness, it is heartwarming to know that the world is a better place having known Denise. So many lives were touched by this wonderful woman, and I hope her passionate work fighting against cancer is carried on by those she leaves behind. Many prayers to her friends, family, and especially her children during this hard time.

Toasting a sweet white in your name, my friend. You will truly be missed.

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