I stayed up way too late finishing this inspiring book, Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson. It's a fasinating look into the resiliance of the human soul and mind when faced with intense pain and adversity.
In February of 2010 I have the opportunity to meet Christian Nielson, Stephanie's husband, only 5 months after their plane crashed in Arizona, caught fire and he and Stephanie were severely burned. The side of his face was still red and healing. He was attending an event where I was and happened to come over to our table to visit with our friends, who happened to be his friends as well. We were introduced and he sat down for a minute and before too long I was listening to his story, (their story). Christian had taken flying lessons and his wife Stephanie and pilot instructor were with him when the plane had mechanical problems and went down. The instructor didn't make it. Christian was burned over 40% of his body and Stephanie over 80% of her body. He asked if I was acquainted with his wife's blog, www.nieniedialogues.com? I wasn't. Then he told me his wife had created a blog and it had become well known, before the crash. The blog was a creative, upbeat view of being a wife and mother of 4 and she had captivated readers around the globe with pictures and details of her life.
This book tells about their return from an "almost" fatal experience, back to real life, one step at a time. Currently it in # 14 on The New York Times Best Seller List. Their story has become quite well known. Stephanie has appeared on Oprah and their situation has been highlighted in many places. The coolest thing is that she just had a baby girl only about 2 weeks ago, a complete miracle.
But the hardest part of this tradgedy for Stephanie was how her children reacted when they saw her. She was devastated at not being able to mother them again as she had and wanted so badly to do something for them, anything, but every move she made hurt!
The best part of this book is the way she got her children to respond positively to her again. She didn't look like their mom anymore, after 5 months in a burn unit and dozens of skin grafts later. Her four kids were ages 6, 5, 3, and 18 months? Two of them wouldn't go to her or even look at her. They were frightened of the way she looked. Here is what she says...
"Physically, I couldn't mother the children as much as I wanted to, but I looked for any and every way to reestablish our connection."
"Claire, let's read Stuart Little," I suggested. She had just brought it home from school. "If you'll bring it to me, I'd love to read it with you."
Claire ran to her backpack and pulled out the book.
"You're going to read, Mom?" Ollie asked as he climbed onto the couch and settled in next to me.
Jane wandered in, too. "What are you reading?" She asked Claire.
"Stuart Little," I answered. "It's about a cute little mouse, Jane. I think you'd like it."
She shrugged her shoulders and sad down on the floor by Nicholas who was playing with Ollie's army guys.
"Gig's, you want to read with us?" I held out my arms but was prepared for the answer I got. Nicholas shook his head and looked back at this toys.
"When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everyone noticed he was not much bigger than a mouse," I began, and Jane looked up. "The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way."
Claire giggled. "Look how cute he is with a little hat and shoes." It was more than Jane could resist, and she climbed on the couch next to Claire to see the dapper little mouse.
The children snuggled close to me as I read so they could see the illustrations. When Jane said something about the doctor examining Stuart Little, even Nicholas climbed on the couch next to Oliver so he could see, too.
I was sharing the couch with all four of my children. I wanted this moment to last forever. they hung on every word, captivated by the story of the little mouse. Hoping nothing would beak this spell, I rad one chapter after another. I had no intention of quitting, so when we finished chapter four, and Jane said, looking at the book, "Oh, Mom, one more chapter. Pleeeease," I was thrilled.
"Another chapter?" I asked. "I'd like nothing better."
Nothing else needs to be said about the power of reading aloud to children, does it?