I came across a story of a young couple who were involved in a private plane crash last weekend. The pilot, Doug Kinneard, died, leaving behind a wife and four children, ages 13 to 25. The couple, Christian (age 29) and Stephanie Nielson (age 27), survived. They are both in the very early stages of recovery from severe burns and other injuries. Christian has suffered burns over 30% of his body. Stephanie, over 70%. This couple has four young children, ages 6, 5, 3, and 1. Thankfully, although the children had flown with the couple in past several months (Christian was on his way to receiving his pilot’s license; flying lessons were a present from Stephanie to Christian to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams), the children were not with them on this particular flight.
I’d like to share a little bit more about the Nielson’s that I learned from reading Stephanie’s blog, the NieNieDialogues. When I read Stephanie’s blog, my first thoughts were something along the lines of, “You’ve got to be kidding me? Is she really this happy all the time? Is her marriage really that great? Is her faith truly that strong?” And, well, the bottom line is “Yes.”
Stephanie loves being a mom. Her marriage is unbelievably strong. She and her husband continue to write love notes to each other, see here and here and here. They miss one another terribly when he is away on business trips. They have “dates” every week. Here they are together:Stephanie teaches yoga several times a week. She teaches an art class in making black and white portrait silhouettes, one of her specialties. She runs in races. She keeps a neat home, and comments frequently that she should be living in the 1940’s as that’s more her persona. 1940’s, but with a fun twist. She is such an inspiration, and I wish upon wish that I had found her blog so much sooner, and more importantly, that she and Christian were safe at home with their children right now instead of in the Maricopa County Burn Unit.
Her faith, though, is the bedrock of her life. It underlies her “self,” her marriage, her children, her family, her life. Her faith. Stephanie is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and you can read more about her Mormon faith here (Church-sanctioned). There is a lot of misinformation about the LDS faith, and in case you’re curious, you can read this post to get a more personal view of the LDS faith (not Church-sanctioned but enlightening nonetheless).
What has touched me about Stephanie’s story is the incredible faith that shines through — in her life before the accident, in the way her family is dealing with this tragedy, for example, here, and I’m sure, in the way she deals with her life subsequently. That’s to say, I’m sure there will be tremendous difficulties and adjustments ahead. Such that I cannot even imagine. I cannot fathom the physical and emotional pain that comes with being burned over 70% of your body. Her faith will see her though. And though it feels a bit trite to write that, I really have no doubt that it is the truth.
As I often struggle with my faith, I find inspiration in stories of those who have such faith, who live their lives in faith, who face hardships while holding hands with their faith (without fighting against it or blaming it), and who overcome hardships through their faith. I am always looking for God. And rather than find His absence in these tragedies, I find His presence and people believing and people overcoming. I search for these stories because He says to me, I AM HERE.
My question is thus — how do people without faith ever survive such tragedies?