Saturday, June 23, 2012
Heaven is Here
Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy by Stephanie Nielson
Source: Borrowed from my aunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was not familiar with Stephanie's story or her blog before reading this memoir. My aunt had read it first and lent it to me along with a high recommendation. I didn't get to it right away, but every time I saw her, she'd ask me if I had read it yet. After answering "no" at least two or three times, I decided it was about time to get started.
It's not that I didn't want to read it, I knew it would be an interesting and inspiring story, but I was a little hesitant because I knew it was very religiously oriented. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly a believer, it's just that I've been a bit disillusioned with organized religion for various reasons I won't bore you with here. But, regardless of my own feelings about religion, I truly admire Stephanie's faith and commitment to her beliefs and after reading her story, I believe they played a major role in her survival of such unimaginable pain and suffering.
While the book is mainly about the plane crash that almost took the lives of Stephanie and her husband Christian, the first third of the book is basically their real-life love story. The reader is introduced to this happy young couple and follows them through their courtship, marriage, and the births of their first four children. I didn't really expect this part of the story, but it was fascinating to read about their "before" life, especially since it reflected a lot of the Mormon culture I'm not all that familiar with. It was also good to have the beginning of their story in the back of my mind as I was reading about their struggle to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the accident.
Though it could be read as simply a testament to faith, religion, and God's love (which it most certainly is), what resonated even more with me were the human relationships. This book is just chock-full of love. Parents, siblings, children, spouses, and friends -- the support network Stephanie and Christian have is truly amazing and the love they have for each other is remarkably strong and touchingly beautiful. I can't even imagine what these two people suffered, but I don't think they could have done it without the love of their families and their love for each other. This is truly the story of "for better or worse, in sickness and in health" and it is amazing to see what they were able to overcome together.
The book's dedication has a line for each of Stephanie's children. While all of her children are memorable in their own ways, I'll never forget little Ollie. Her line to him is "For Ollie, who never cared." That little boy has a special place in my heart. Of all her children, Oliver was at an age where he was old enough to understand, but young enough to not be frightened or judgmental of his mother's disability or appearance -- she was still just his Mom. We all could learn a lot from little Ollie as well as from the entire Neilson family. Even if you don't normally read memoirs, or if you think a book like this would be too difficult or depressing, trust me, it's worth the read.