A Miracle on Captiva Island

By: Lauren Tjaden


This story reads like a Hollywood screenplay crafted by a hopelessly sentimental hack. Yet every word is true. If you want to have your heart broken and uplifted at the same time, read on.

Kristine Larson, 19 lived in the Midwest. She had recently started a new job, and had begun scribbling notes and creating a budget that would allow her to treat her mother to a vacation at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort on Captiva Island, Florida. No one knows how Kristine fell in love with or even discovered this particular location – and they will never know, because in 2007 she was savagely murdered, a victim of domestic violence.

In fact, the only reason anyone knows about Kristine’s plans at all is Kristine’s mother, Deb Tilson, was cleaning her daughter’s patio three months after her murder. On the patio, she discovered Kristine’s notebook stashed under a chair cushion, detailing her dreams about treating her mother to a getaway on Captiva.

To honor her daughter, in 2010 Deb and her family finally made the journey Kristine wanted, to ‘Tween Waters Inn and Captiva Island. They assumed it was the first and last time in their lives they would visit the tiny, shell-strewn island. They released Kristine’s ashes on the beach, into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico upon an origami boat, at sunset.

Fast forward to January 2013. ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort launched a promotion unlike any other in its 80-plus years history: the chance to win a “Vacation of a Lifetime” — one Three-Night Island Vacation for two at ‘Tween Waters Inn per year, for 25 consecutive years. All anyone had to do is provide his or her name and contact information online. Deb Tilson decided to enter.

At the close of the contest on April 30, 2013, more than 12,000 entries had been received. The resort’s general manager randomly selected a winning number.

And the name attached to that random number?

None other than Deborah Tilson of St. Paul Park, Minnesota, thus making her the winner of a “Vacation of a Lifetime” — to the very resort and very beach her daughter had always wanted to share with her mother while she was alive, but could only do so following her death.

It’s random. It’s remarkable. Mother and daughter will be reunited again, for the next 25 years.

That makes me smile. I hope it makes you smile, too.

My soul is full of whispered song;
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
Are all alive with light.
~ Alice Cary, Dying Hymn

In the months and years that followed, Deb has become an advocate for raising awareness of the tragic cost of domestic violence, and to this day serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

A video of Kristine’s ashes being released at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort on Captiva Island, Florida can be viewed here.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners


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