Prisoner of Hope – The Colors of Hope

part 12 ……. cropped-dscn0438.jpg

I have a friend who loves to tell stories of hope.   They’re the kind of stories where you could sit back and close your eyes and see yourself in your daddy’s lap, holding onto every word, feeling safe and secure.  No matter how many times I hear his stories I get more out of them.  I hear things I didn’t hear the last time I listened.  I cry and I laugh.

One of his stories talks about perspective.  At least, that’s what I get out of it.  I think perspective is very much intertwined in life.  I grew up in a home where the perspective was very negative.  Because of that, I grew up thinking I was basically something other than I am today.  In this hope story my friend talks about – well,  I don’t want to spoil it for you so you need to go to: and listen to Best View in Town.   

When something throws a wrench in your life and suddenly you’re facing a crisis or a dilemma that you just don’t understand, at that very moment you have a choice.  Well, that’s not very fair of me, actually.  When you lose someone a lot goes through your head or you are very numb, or both.  But once you get through the news of what happened and you get through the plans of burial and memorial or what have you, it is then that you make a choice.  At least it was for me.

How will I go through life now, you wonder.  We all have different personalities and different thought processes.  Some, when they loose a loved one, get rid of all their stuff and reminders.  Some keep everything as it was. And I’m sure there are countless other ways to deal with the hole in your life.  I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way.  For me, I knew I had to move forward as best as I could.  I knew my daughter would have expected that.  Her personality was one to never want any of us to not do what we were suppose to do because I something she did or something going on in her life.  So that made it a little easier to pick ourselves up and move forward.

About perspective – I was thinking about my life, now that’s it’s been eight years since we lost Vanessa.  I like puzzles and I like mysteries.  But I like them to be completed and solved.  I was thinking about how my life was like a jigsaw puzzle – I pictured all these pieces laid out on a table – some were put together and some waiting.  But what I saw so far were black pieces.  No color.  I love colors – so to picture this was a bit un-nerving to me.  I realized these black pieces were how I felt about the loss we have as a family.  Life feels black sometimes.  But then I saw that I only saw part of the puzzle.  That God saw the whole puzzle – he has the “box” so to speak, with the completed picture of my life on it.  He sees the end result.  He has the “best view in town”.  That is when I realized that hope has color.  Hope has a view that is good and sees more than what is right in front of it.  It’s not a which on a star – it’s a deep routed view of what our life truly is and can become.  I want to always choose life and always choose hope.  It is a daily choice for me.  But it is colorful and I believe it is right.

hope in Pink

cate b

I want to thank you for reading the last 12 “chapters” of my journey.  I will continue to blog about ………. life.  But the Prisoner of Hope series will be expanding and publishing as a book.  I do invite you to continue reading my posts and join me in the book that is in process.

God bless you all in your journey of hope.

Prisoner of Hope – The Beauty

part 11 …….

The thing about hope is, it is always there.  Just within reach whether we want it or not.  Everyone hopes.  We hope for good weather and we hope for a great day, we hope for so many things.  But, to me, real true hope is not wishing.  It goes so much deeper than a wish.  Hope is solid.  Hope is strong.  Hope is tangible. Hope is spiritual.  Hope is just plain real.

I use the title Prisoner of Hope.  It is taken from scripture – God says, “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.”  Zechariah 9:12  I am not a bible scholar, at all.  I just know that this passage speaks deeply to my heart.  I know that I feel comforted when I read it.  There are many “prisons” in life, in our hearts.  And when God can tell me that I am a prisoner of hope – well, what a glorious prison!  I see a cell with no walls.  I see freedom.  I personally believe that this hope and freedom only comes from him.

It’s because of that hope that I know we will see our daughter, sister, friend again in eternity.  Does it ease the pain of loss?  Yes, but it still hurts.  But I have hope.

A dear friend, who I will call “J” in this post, recently wrote to me. She was like a sister to our daughter.  Therefore, another daughter to us.  Needless to say, the loss of Vanessa was difficult for J.  But I read the most beautiful words in her letter to me.  They speak of another person’s journey of grief and loss and pain.  But I saw beauty in these words:

“Grief over Vanessa has been put on a distant shelf and I have not gone there.  I even avoid pictures, not conscientiously, but I do.  Yet I dream about her a lot.  It breaks into my mind and feelings whether I choose it or not.  In the few days since I received your package I have thought and remembered a lot and have been  surprised at the amount of emotions that have come out. I realized I have been robbing myself of the beauty of grief.  It sounds weird, but grief in this last week has not been terrible, but beautiful.  There is hope in it and sweet memories.  Yes, I miss Vanessa and tears flow as soon as I think of her, but it is sweet right now.”

J put it so sweetly and clearly.  The pain and the beauty – when you have hope.

butterfly heart

Cate B

to be continued …….




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 – 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


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