I’ve been getting a bit of traffic for an old story I wrote about Stephanie Nielson, of Nie Nie Dialogues. When I did a news search to see why, I saw a link to a 20/20 story that aired about her last night. So I watched the story. And I hope you can watch it too, if time permits.
Stephanie Nielson survived a plane crash with 80% burns over her body. Her husband, who survived the plane crash as well, was faced with the decision to go back into a massive burning inferno and try to pull out his wife (and die in the process) or remain living for his children (he suffered significant burns as well), a choice no person should be forced to make. He chose not to go back. She made it out of the burning plane on her own, who knows how. What I have always admired about Stephanie, and now her husband as well, is the possession of honesty in the face of their great tragedy. She admits that she felt a terrible sense of abandonment. And yet, with no illusions and in the hard, frozen, iron light of day, she (and he) eventually chose optimism. She forgave him. He accepted her changed physical appearance, transformed by fire. And a real love story for the ages was unveiled.
We all have an idealized way we expect husbands and wives to behave. It’s easy to cast blame and imagine the heroic behavior we would engage in if we were faced with a terrible scenario like the Nielsons. But to forgive someone is quite possibly the most difficult thing in the world. To accept that the outside of our facade is only a glimpse of our true self is also incredibly formidable. To be truly honest with each other is almost excruciating.
So, Nielsons, I am so happy that you have held on to your love. Thank you for showing me what real fairytale love is like.