Category Archives: Love More

Prisoner of Hope – The Five Steps

part 8 …….

The following is written by my son, Jonathan.  He is our oldest and just 20 months older than his sister.


The Five Steps



There is a possibility

A slight improbability

That she is alive and safe

From this catastrophe


God, I feel betrayed

This just isn’t fair

That her life was delayed

Do you even care?


I’m the one unhealthy

I’m the one that is sick

My life taken would make sense

But death has no respect


I’m awake and breathing

Tomorrow will be the same

Right now there is nothing worth doing

Tomorrow will prove to be the same…..


Today is the day brand new

I have accepted and will prove

I do not know better than God

Living with her loss is what I must do

cate b

be continued …….

Prisoner of Hope – The ‘What Ifs’

part 7 …….

‘What If?’  That is one of the age-old questions isn’t it?  It can be comical when we go off into our imaginative worlds and day-dream of things if they were different:

What if there was an actual money tree?
What if bee’s produced butter?
What if yahoo was called yagoo?
What if 16 year olds could buy and drink alcohol?
What if we lost WWII?
What if the walls could talk?
What if the U.S. took over Canada and Mexico?
What if dogs had gills?
What if there were no what if questions?

As you can see from the list I found that most of those are not even to be considered or answered.  For example, what if bees produced butter?  Well then they would also produce milk and graze in fields probably and then maybe the cows would be our honey producers and our pollinators.  See what I mean?  No sense even going there except in a total imaginative way because it ain’t gonna happen.  What is, is.  Bees do not nor will they ever produce butter.

Now I suppose that if we lost in World War II our present day world, as we know it, would be vastly different.  Also, the one about the sixteen year olds legally buying and drinking alcohol, that goes without saying.  And I, for one, have a very imaginative mind.  But after all the thoughts have run through my head it comes down to one fact:  It isn’t that way – it is what it is.

I realize that doesn’t sound very hopeful does it?  I’m a believer of change.  I’ve known many people who heard the “word” from the doctor of their condition not being very hopeful, but when putting their energy and hope in prayer and other life changes and surrounding themselves with others who believe and stand with them – it can change from hopelessness to hope!  That is a wonderful thing.

I have that faith.  I have that hope.  When my daughter was taken from me in January of 2005 I just couldn’t bring myself to “entertain” those ‘what ifs’.  They came at me with a vengeance.  What if you told her to fly straight to Seattle and bypass going back to Southern California?  What if you had her stay longer visiting with you?  What if you called her and told her to get out of the house that day?  I just couldn’t go there.  She was gone and me entertaining those ‘what ifs’ did absolutely nothing to change what happened.  That is sad to me but a reality.  I know that if I focus on what could have been I get stuck in time.  It doesn’t speak life to me and we had enough of death.  We had to look to life at this point.

We all will go through a loss differently, our grief will be different from each others.  We just shouldn’t go into denial, we need to go  with the punches, so to speak.  Go with the wave of grief that I mentioned in a previous post.  I read the following on another WordPress blog –

“What ugly truths?  The ones that stalk every feeling person when a loved one passes the veil.  Guilt, selfishness, regret, anger, and even sorrow.  All necessary to the process of healing, but all the uglier side of loss.  After all, it is the living who feel the loss most.  Those passed on remember only the love we feel for them.”

I love that quote.  So true.  We, the left behind ones, hurt the most.  We feel the loss the most.  They left us knowing we loved them.  What a way to go.  Really.  It makes me feel very warm inside knowing my daughter knew we all loved her in this life.  She is fine and happy now.  We are here trying our best to go forward without her.  But, when you have faith and are anchored in hope you can see another perspective.  It’s only a passing moment of time until we see her again.

Know, dear reader, that I do not taking her passing lightly.  I do not think anyone should take a loss lightly.  It hurts.  We are only human, after all.  And as a human being, death is difficult.  I pray that as I write my experiences that someone will be touched by my words and build in them a great hope and faith that will carry them through their difficult time.

Cate B

Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.

Prisoner of Hope – Remembering

part 6 …….

We named our daughter Vanessa Joy.  Vanessa has a root meaning of butterfly.  She loved butterflies.  She drew them, she wrote about them and when she would give me gifts they mostly consisted of butterflies – a pair of butterfly earrings, for example.  As a matter of fact, the last gift she gave me was a throw pillow of an asian influence with a butterfly on it.  And when she gave it to me she said, “So you will remember me”.

My thoughts at the time she said that were, how could I ever forget you, and I told her those sentiments in similar words.  Well, when we lost her I began wanting to grasp everything that reminded me of her.  I felt I owed that to her and to myself.

Our son, on the plane from Hong Kong, designed tattoos in remembrance of his sister.  He had in mind for the brother’s to go together and get tattooed, but when I saw them I knew I was to get one.  So did at least 3 other women.



This is the tattoo I have on my left forearm.  Our son implemented her initials in the butterfly.  A V and a J and a B for our last name.

I bought place mats with butterflies, earrings were given to me and other beautiful jewelry.  I have a valance with butterflies.  I could go on and on.  I just needed something tangible to look at from time to time and feel her near me.





Here, on the left, is a picture of Vanessa, the end of December in NYC.  The picture speaks volumes of her personality – she did not want me taking that pic of her – thus the “talk to the hand” pose.


On the right – I found this on my camera just after she left our home to go back to CA.  She took it of herself – I’m sure so I would remember her.

Funny thing about losing someone.  You begin to see pieces of the puzzle of life come clearer. Those few things about “not forgetting” her – she didn’t know that was our last visit together.  Nor did we.  Right across the street from Macy’s in Manhattan, where the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink is, they display two angels blowing on trumpets.  My husband and I went to see the ice skating, and as we returned to meet up with her I gasped and stopped in my tracts.  Vanessa was standing between those angels – looking for us – and I remember clearly my thoughts were, “look at Vanessa among the angels!”

Aren’t these memories both beautiful and painful?  I friend of mine who lost their teenage son shortly before our loss recently said, “Grief changes over time, I would never call it “getting better”.”

It’s so true, the grieving changes.  And that’s OK.  My hope lies deep in Jesus, my very best friend.  We walk through this pain together.  I couldn’t do it alone.  None of us can.

We see Vanessa all around us.  She’s in my husband and I and her three brothers.  You can see her in her nephews and her namesake niece, Lucy Vanessa Joy.  The friends that were close to her carry parts of her around.  It’s wonderful.  Those who leave this earth early are still with  us.  Just look and remember the wonderful things about them.

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
― L.M. MontgomeryThe Story Girl
“Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some devine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.”
― Alfred Tennyson

“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.”
― Kazuo IshiguroNever Let Me Go

Cate B

to be continued …….

Prisoner of Hope – A Typical American Family

part 5 …….

Our family was, what I thought to be, your typical American family. By that I mean we loved each other, we worked hard to make ends meet, my husband and I tried to raise our kids the best way we knew – instilling morals in them and enough discipline so when they are adults they make good, mature, kind decisions, etc.

My husband and I met in the middle of the Jesus People Movement that had spread across America in the early 70’s. We had joined a Christian commune that worked to serve the many young people in the streets during the “hippie” days – the days when so many of all ages were “finding themselves”. Good times 😉

When we married he was my pastor. We wanted a family right away so 10 months later our wonderful son, Jonathan, was born. Twenty months later, Vanessa Joy was born.

As a minister’s family I tried really hard to raise my kids to be pretty “normal”. Meaning, I wanted them to be individuals – to be who they were made to be. Not to be who other people thought they should be. Those raised in the church or those leaders in church who raised their children in the church know what I’m talking about. I knew my kids would be labeled as PK’s (Preacher Kids or Pastor’ Kids) – but by golly, mine were going to be normal. So I told them – the boys – if they wanted long hair it’s OK with me, as long as it’s clean and not hanging in your food while you eat. I let them dye their hair if they wanted, etc. and so on. Be creative! And they were good – no really BIG problems as teens – just the normal “I’ll use my mouth against my parents” kind of stuff – haha.

About 5 years after Vanessa came another boy and then 2.5 years later, our last, another boy. They grew and I tried to enjoy every minute of it. As they began to grown into adulthood and leave home to “spread their wings”, we let them. We encouraged them and loved them even if we didn’t 100% like the way they were doing things. We knew we had to let them go and try things on their own – while watching and listening to their every move. Were we perfect parents? Heck no! I still tell our oldest that I am sorry for anything I did that wasn’t good for him – I told him he was the first and we had NO IDEA what we were doing. He was basically the guinea pig. He laughs – now.

Our daughter’s decision to move to California was a tough one. We didn’t like it I think because of who she had gotten involved with. We decided to love her through this and pray like crazy that things would go a different way. Did we, as parents, really know what way they should go? No. We just knew that a different partner would have been better. Would a different way still have her here, still alive and with us? Not necessarily. We really don’t know the outcome. We all see only a part of the puzzle of our lives. So we do our best.

She had decided to move to Seattle after the relationship broke up with this friend of hers. She was ready for a new start and it felt right by all of us. This was in November of 2004. She made many good friends in California that are like family to us now.

Her youngest brother was living in KCMO and had gone to California to spend Christmas with her. The middle son was in Shanghai, China studying at the University there. The oldest and his family were just a few miles from us in NJ. All was good.

Until that phone call. That one short phone call that changed our life forever. You really cannot prepare for such an event. We’ve walked through this with friends when they lost their son – but he was their son. It was a tiny bit of preparation – but not.

Bad things do happen to good people. We think we’re good people. We are not by any means perfect in anything. We are human, after all. But all we knew was to reach to the author of our faith, Jesus Christ. The anchor of our souls. He was amazing during that horrific time. We could feel Him holding us. We saw Him in so many people – the ladies at the church we used, who picked up snotty tissues with their bare hands – the many who stopped by with food and hugs – even strangers. Those who loved us afterwards and became part of us. It was incredible. Terribly, wonderfully incredible. And extremely painful.

We hurt daily as a family and individuals. But we embrace the pain and try our best to keep going. It has become part of us. We feel for those who have loss. Everyday you can see it on the news – we live in an imperfect world. There is pain, disease, heartache, violence, etc. , all around us.

I hope when any of us – our family and friends who know this heartache firsthand – or even you, Reader, come across a fellow human being who has suffered loss of some degree can look into their heart and reach out a helping hand. A hug? A word? A look? Pick up a snotty tissue? See past the walls of social standing or racial barriers or just plain old likes and dislikes – and see them in a different light.

To be continued …………


Prisoner of Hope – Hope

part 4 …….

I was thinking about what to write next when a memory popped up from many years ago.  Our family was living in a small community when a local young man committed suicide.  It was devastating.

We attended the memorial with most of the town in attendance.  The young youth pastor who spoke at the memorial service said something quite interesting.  He talked about death and how in America we are sheltered from death.  We don’t even see our meat slaughtered.  It’s all done somewhere else and put in neat packages.  It doesn’t really resemble something that was once walking around.

I’m not trying to make light of death, by no means.  And he wasn’t either.  We are a society that tends to “look the other way”, so to speak.  We see it in movies and video games far more than in real life.  We shelter our children from some of reality.

But, when death comes to you it is very scary to face it.  I lost my father at a young age and never got to say goodbye.  I was only about 4 years old but was left home.  That was the way our family dealt with things.  We lost a dear friend at the age of 21 and went to the funeral home with his parents for the final goodbye before cremation.  It was surreal.  I even touched him.  He was cold. It was sad.  And we said goodbye.

When we lost our daughter I was getting fretful over the fact of seeing her lifeless.  When her body arrived at the funeral home from California we were told we shouldn’t see her.  I remember our daughter-in-law asking why not?  We were told by the kindest man, with tears in his eyes, about how she looked after rock and structures had disfigured half her face.  I was good with that.  I have the most beautiful memory of her joyful face forever imprinted in my mind. I am thankful for that.  I know there are many who do not have that.

Death is never easy.  Loss is always difficult.  but these words of Emily Dickinson say so much about hope.

 Hope is always there.  Hope can be your anchor through the hardest of times.  It keeps you going and keeps you strong.

to be continued ………..


Prisoner of Hope – Grief – Like Catching a Wave



Part 3 …….

Grieving is a strange thing.  I’ve always thought of it only associated with death.  But as life revolved around me I began to see that there is a lot more to it then I thought.

When my children began to leave home I noticed a loss, of sorts.  The first two left but I still had two in school at home.  But as they grew and spoke of dreams and leaving the loss was getting a little bigger.  I knew they had to fly.  My husband and I tried our best to instill in them who they are and encourage them in their dreams.  We, by no means, wanted them to stay with us forever .  We knew they had to go and test the waters of adulthood on their own, but also knowing mom and dad were just a phone call away.

I’ve observed and experienced loss in others and myself and found there are different degrees of loss and grief.  Grief is a natural process of life.  We can grieve over the loss of a car or other object or even a job.  Death, of course, is the most hurtful.  The loss of an incredible friendship or relationship to the loss of a pet and hardest the death of a loved one.

Our children growing up and leaving home can be grieved.  We need to allow ourselves to grieve.  Denying it can be even more painful.  I’ve found it’s easier to go with it when it hits.

Growing up near the ocean gave me a picture of grief.  I always wanted to surf but never grabbed that opportunity.  I use to want to be Gidget (the Sally Fields TV version).  Instead I love to watch surfing movies or the surfers wait and catch their waves.  The waves come in sets.  In between you have a waiting period.. Much like grief.  I found I can go days and at times even weeks and no feeling of grief for our daughter.  But then a new set comes. And I can’t ignore those waves.  Oh I could ignore them but then they are more painful. Even a wipeout of sorts.  So, I just grab the grief and ride it through.  So much better and I come out feeling really good.

It doesn’t mean I don’t miss her.  It shows no disrespect or hardened heart toward those we love.  It’s what I found happens inside of me.  Please know that I don’t  take death or loss lightly.  I just know that this life can be really long and miserable if I can’t move forward.  I have to move forward.  Standing still, trapped in a moment of great pain, doesn’t help the rest of those that I love.

Having others in my life who have lost and have chosen to move forward help me also.  Once we share our stories we never have to mention it again.  There is a solid understanding between us.  And when we feel that punch or the wave of grieve may hit unexpectedly we have each other if needed.  It’s a good feeling.  Others are crucial to our life on the earth.  They bring us more hope.

I so want to bring hope to others.  It breaks my heart how much people can hurt.  I know my daughter had that same desire for others.  I count it as a legacy to carry on her heart.  She was getting ready to leave her friends in S. California and go to Seattle with the intention to assist in HIV/AIDS Hospice – bringing hope and comfort to those suffering.

What are you anchored in?  It’s sad, in a way, to find where our strength lies when faced with a difficult situation.  But that is one of life’s tests.  My anchor is in my faith in Christ, my hope in Him as a friend who can carry me through any joy or difficulty.  He helps me dance in this life.

to be continued …………


Prisoner of Hope – Foggy Days

Part 2 …….

The next twenty-four hours where as though I walked in a fog.  A thick, tangible fog.  I could function but felt as though I was going in circles.  Many friends and acquaintances  came by or called to let us know they were praying that our daughter would be found safe.  Working at a police department helped me.  Our dispatcher called California for us to see if she could get answers.  Our Captain did the same.  We later found out that a high school friend of our daughter’s who lived out there jumped in his car to see if he could look for her.  They wouldn’t let him in the area.

After a sleepless night and intense day we received the call from the Coroner’s Office.  They had her body.  Writing this gives me great pain in my heart even seven years later.  It’s the news no parent wants to receive.  It’s the news no parent deserves.

You find yourself in an intense split moment of a crucial decision.  What are you going to do?  Of course you cry out and you fall apart.  That is a given.  We all respond in a different way.  We hold each other and we hurt like we’ve never hurt before.  Then, when you get through the initial shock – however long that takes us – you decide to either get better or get bitter.  You decide whether to entertain thoughts like, “If only I …..”, or “What if she …”, OR say, “No, it happened and what will I do now?”

We had to call our sons.  We had to call China, where a brother was alone in a very foreign land with no friends to comfort him and tell him his only sister was gone.  We had to call Kirk in Kansas City, who just a few weeks before had spent Christmas with his sister in California.  And then we had to call my husband’s mother in Idaho, elderly and frail.  We had her minister go to her first.  That woman was a trooper!

We all chose to move forward.  It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  The anchor I mentioned in the last post just got bigger and stronger.  We saw incredible things transpire before us – things that we couldn’t have done in our “condition”.  Things like getting a son home from China in a hurry.  Planning a memorial service we wanted nothing to do with.  People in the community coming to our side and literally doing these things for us.  We had to let them because the “fog” was thick.

The week from the time of our loss to the memorial was very strange.  We’ve all heard about the feeling of “how can the world around us keep revolving when ours just crashed to a halt?” It’s so true.  Refrigerator full of food and we’re not even sure who dropped it off.  A friend walked us through the arrangements and then four months later he lost his son.  What a world we live in.

A dear friend who had lost a child told us “we just joined a club we didn’t want to join”.  So true.  We live in an imperfect world and yes, bad things do happen to good people.  But our anchor is strong.  We relate to a God who gave his son to die for mankind.  He can relate to loss.

After a week of barely eating or sleeping we greeted friends and strangers alike in front of our daughter’s casket.  After we went out in the freezing wind at the cemetery and said our goodbyes we hopped in the limo and devoured ALL the snack chip bags that were in the back.  And laughed.  Hard to imagine, but there was a release at that moment.  A release that we could now move on into the process of grieving and the process of life with one missing.

It was the worst of times and the best of times.  Because of our anchor of hope we knew that our daughter was in heaven with Jesus.  We knew that we would see her one day and be in eternity with her.  That’s good …… but it also sucks.  Not a day goes by where we don’t miss her.  But oh, the memories are wonderful and we have chosen to keep those alive in our hearts and talk openly about her.  We can’t pretend she never was.  We were blessed with the gift of Vanessa Joy Bryson in October of 1976 and loved her everyday she was with us.  Was she perfect? No.  But she was a product of our love. We nurtured her the best we knew how and so glad we knew her as along as we did.

Vanessa Joy Bryson and her dog Bailey (who also perished that day) .

to be continued ………………..cb