Sunday, April 15, 2012
Book Review - Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson
Stephanie and Christian had a romance that most young girls dream of--he was the handsome and dashing prince who rode in and swept her off her feet, and she was the beautiful, quirky girl who loved red lipstick and high heels. They married in the temple and started a beautiful family. Stephanie loved being a mother and spent her time creating meals and decorating her house and totally immersing herself in the experience. With four sweet children and a wonderful husband, a supportive extended family, and her faith in Jesus Christ, she felt as though she had everything she could possibly want.
Christian had always wanted to fly, and when the chance came for him to get his pilot's license, he jumped at it. He made good friends with Doug, his flight instructor, and spent hours in the cockpit. He was close to getting his license and achieving his lifelong dream in August of 2008, when he asked Stephanie and Doug to fly with him to the family ranch. It would be a quick day trip and they'd be back before dinner. Stephanie hugged her kids goodbye and headed out the door, feeling sad that her two-year-old had asked her not to go.
They had a fun day together and Stephanie was so excited to see her husband in the pilot's seat. As they took off to come home, however, something went wrong with the plane, and it crashed and caught fire. Stephanie's body was 80% burned, and Christian was not only burned as well, but suffered a broken back. Doug lived a short time, but then passed away.
What follows is a heart-wrenching story of guilt, pain, and recovery. Stephanie was in a medically induced coma for four months as the doctors worked diligently to save her life. They performed skin grafting surgeries every few days while she slept--the pain would have been too great to bear. Christian was in a nearby hospital undergoing much the same thing, and their children went to live with Stephanie's sisters. When Stephanie awoke, it was to find that her life would never be the same again, and she would have to go through trials of pain, endurance, hope, and faith like she had never imagined.
This book is very honest. Stephanie doesn't put herself forward as a heroine--she shares exactly what she was thinking, how she felt, the very real emotions she experienced as she went through therapy, more surgery, learning how to do everything over again, reconnecting with her children. This honesty, however, makes her a heroine of the best and truest sort.
I have a small scar on one knuckle on my right hand. I brushed my finger against the iron one day, and the pain was intense. It radiated up my arm and into my shoulder for days. When I try to comprehend what Stephanie and Christian went through, being so badly burned over such large percentages of their bodies, I can't fathom it. I can't picture how they survived, how they endured it. Stephanie has no doubt how she survived, however. She knows she was saved by the hand of God, and that He has walked beside her through the whole process.
One thing that is not mentioned in the book is the way she has turned her blog into a massive missionary effort. If you visit http://nieniedialogues.com/, you can request a copy of The Book of Mormon, which she will personally inscribe with her testimony. She has turned her tragedy into a ray of hope.
Heaven is Here is an amazing book about an amazing person and family. You will be inspired, you will cry, you will appreciate life so much more, and you will grab your children and your spouse and squeeze them a little tighter. Most of all, you will come to a greater understanding of the Lord's tender mercies and realize how they are granted in your life every single day.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my review, but that did not influence my opinion.)