published Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Mohney: Mother triumphs over terrible tragedy

By Nell Mohney

Recently, in celebration of Mother’s Day, I read the book “Heaven Is Here” by Stephanie Nielson. It speaks of the triumph of the human spirit only made possible by the presence of God. The book will go straight to the center of your heart.

Nielson said that, in 2008, she believed she had the perfect life — a wonderfully happy marriage for more than eight years and four healthy, happy children. Her husband, Christian, had a great job, and she, in addition to joyfully caring for their children, found creative fulfillment and a far-flung community of online friends through writing a blog called “NieNie Dialogues.”

Everything changed on a sunny day in August 2008. She and her husband, a newly credentialed pilot, and Doug Kinneard, his flight instructor, were taking a day trip to her husband’s family ranch in New Mexico. They were enjoying a beautiful return home with Doug at the controls until the voices in the cockpit sounded concerned. As she looked out the window, the houses below seemed to be coming closer. The plane slammed into the ground and burst into flames. Everything went dark.

When she woke up, it was November, and she was in a Phoenix hospital being treated for burns over 80 percent of her body. Her husband survived with burns over 40 percent of his body, while Kinneard died the next day in the hospital.

It was two months before Nielson could look at herself in the mirror. Her greatest fear was that her children would never be able to accept or love her. She wanted to die.

Yet the reunion with the children went better than she feared. Only one, Jane, their 5-year-old, took one look at her mother, gasped, and wouldn’t look at her again for months. Yet all of that seemed to dissolve when, in March 2008, they moved into their new home and Stephanie could come home from the hospital.

It was on Mother’s Day that she could type, though slowly and painfully with bandaged hands. She wrote: “It’s true! I am alive! I look different and I walk slowly, but it’s great to be back. I’m the luckiest mother alive!”

Contact Nell Mohney at nellwmohney@timesfree press.com.

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