Written by Linda Holloway, Bessie’s Hope Co-founder and granddaughter of Bessie “Granny” Stephens
How Did Bessie’s Hope Begin?
People often ask, “How did Bessie’s Hope (originally named Rainbow Bridge for 15 yrs) begin?” In 1989, my grandmother (Bessie) entered a Texas nursing home due to the advanced progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother had to make that very hard decision for nursing home placement, and I began my monthly drive from Denver to Texas to stay a couple of days. “Granny” and I had an extremely close bond throughout my life, and I spent day and night at the nursing home with her. I became consumed by anger, because of what she had to endure. Not only was she going through the horrid stages of the disease, she was suffering needless pain from neglect, drug abuse, and physical and emotional abuse that she received in the nursing home. My mother saw her every day and was exhausted from having to deal with all of it.
The organization is a living legacy to Granny. Her entire life had been hard, and her caring, generous spirit had always been about faith and hope. Because of her experience in the Texas nursing home, thousands of nursing home elders have benefitted from the work of this unique organization.
After seeing my grandmother at the nursing home one day, I was lamenting to God about “Granny’s” unfair life, when I heard a very clear, loud yet inaudible voice repeating, “Bring them together—the young and the old.” With eyes closed, I saw the work that would be Granny’s legacy. Sharron Brandrup and I began training young children to interact with nursing home elders, and we taught them our original songs about respect and caring. Marge Utne, the third co-founder, helped us launch a nonprofit organization built upon the work we had already begun, which was the mandate from God to bring together the young and the old. From preschool to adult ages, schools, youth organizations, “at-risk youth” programs, civic organizations, corporations, all participants receive training and education, so as to have respectful, meaningful interaction and relationships with the elders of all cognitive functioning levels.
Granny spent her life helping and caring for others, and death did not end this. She is still touching hearts and changing lives in profound ways. Her spirit inspired, created and will always guide the work of Bessie’s Hope. During her last year of life, and the first year of the organization, she wrote a song through me. She wasn’t aware on a human consciousness level of the song being written, but her spirit wanted to speak for so many who simply want to be remembered the way they were, but loved the way they are. The song, “Remember Me the Way I Was; Love Me the Way I Am” has become a theme song for Bessie’s Hope.