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Saturday, September 06, 2008

just one letter tonight

Dear Stephanie,

I have to do this. I have to write to you now. I have a confession. I was in Mesa on Thursday, August 14th. I was there with my brother, for a wedding. And I thought about you so much when we were there, but I pushed away the prompting to go visit you. Courtney said you'd be so happy to have a visitor, but again and again I pushed away the prompting. I rationalized that we only had a couple of hours to spare, but the feeling persisted and I ignored it. I apologize to you for that. But Lisa Polo, who brought me the lovely gift you see at the top of this post (because it reminded her of you) gently suggested that on that day, two days before your accident, you were likely busy with the beauty of enriching your children's lives, another day of the little piece of heaven you make your home. I believe that, and I am not sorry that I didn't interrupt.

Kerri was the one to tell me about the accident. The red rotary-dial phone next to my bed rang as I was slowly leaving behind a Sunday afternoon nap, and I could tell somehow from the sound of the ring that the call was urgent.


"Jenny, it's Kerri."

"Hey, Ker, how are you?"

"Um, good, did you hear about Stephanie and Christian?"

And my life hasn't been the same since. It's weird to be among this vast group of people who feel strange for how attached they feel to you; I mean, some people have never even met you and they, like I, can't sleep, or eat, or get this from their minds...people are dealing with it differently, but they're dealing with it. As much as I can't stop thinking about it, I cannot imagine what it must be like for your family. I simply cannot.

The drive to "do something" is overwhelming. I, like most others, have done a bit, but want to do more. An opportunity presented itself just the other day, by way of an email in the inbox of the email account I don't use very often (otherwise I would have seen it sooner). The message was from Alex Williams, a reporter from the New York Times, asking me some questions about you. Call me a New Yorker, but I was immediately suspicious and didn't want to give out any information without the family's permission. I drafted vague answers to the questions and then called Courtney. Then Lucy. Then Lisa. Then sent Courtney and Lucy text messages. Then called Lisa again. Then sent CK a text message. Finally I reached Lisa with phone call #3 to her, and she confirmed that this was a legitimate email, so I refined the detail in my answers and sent it off immediately, as urgency was noted due to Mr. Williams' deadline. (It is, after all, the Times, you know.) A few hours following my sending the email, I sent a follow-up email, asking if Mr. Williams received my response. I got a reply this morning:

Yes, thanks. It came in after I had finished the draft, so I couldn't include you, unfortunately. But look for the story on Sunday. Hope you enjoy.--Alex

My heart fell. This was an opportunity for me to contribute to your cause, to help your family, and I missed his deadline. So I've decided to put it all here, questions and answers, and I hope you don't mind:

* Have you ever met Stephanie in person? If not, how long have you been reading her blog? How did you discover it? How often did you read it?

~Yes, I have met Stephanie in person. I met her in early 2001, when she was a newlywed. We lived in the same neighborhood in Provo, Utah, and worked together in our church responsibilities as leaders for the Young Women (girls ages 12-18) in our congregation. After I moved to the other side of town, and she moved to New Jersey (her residence prior to Arizona), she sent emails as invitations to read her new blog posts, which were always fun to read as well as a great way to stay in touch. (She was writing a different blog at that time, not NieNie Dialogues.) She, in fact, is the one who encouraged me to start my own blog back in 2005. Her sister Courtney (cjane) is one of my closest friends, as is her sister-in-law, Lisa, and Stephanie's sister Lucy, also a friend, lives in my neighborhood now.

* How does Nie Nie Dialogues stand out from other "mommy blogs?"

~NieNie Dialogues differs from other blogs in that it tells stories so well in photos, and it is ALWAYS positive and hopeful. Other "mommy blogs" can tend to drone on about the reality of how repetitive/boring/tedious being a stay-at-home mom can be, but Stephanie is able to capture beauty in everything around her, mostly her family and relationships, every day, and she shares that on her blog.

* Has Stephanie provided any personal inspiration for you? If so, how? Have you done anything in your own life to follow the example she has set? Didyou ever get any ideas (on child-rearing, marriage, home decoration) from her blog?

~Stephanie is an inspriration to me beyond her blog; as a person, as a woman, as a wife, and as a mother, she is beyond inspiring. She knows how to love, and puts into action the ideal of prioritizing family. So many of us (mothers) have ideas: "Oh, I should do that..." which never come to fruition and remain only good intentions. Stephanie does the things the rest of us talk about doing, and then she documents it on her blog, which can make daydreams seem accessible.

* How have you personally responded to the news of her accident?

At first I was overwhelmed with guilt; I had just been in Mesa two days before the accident for a wedding, and having only an hour and a half to spare before catching my flight home, I didn't go visit the Nielsons. Also, I haven't slept well, and I have bad dreams about the situation. Taking all this into consideration, I CANNOT imagine how the family is feeling. Upon hearing of the crash, I brought cookies to Courtney (Steph's sister) because...well, that's what I do: I bring cookies. And then I made a resolve to live differently, to live more and do more. You see, I am a "I'll do it later" person in many respects; for instance, my bedroom is the 'catch-all' of my home where all my projects reside. My justification has always been, "Well, I'll just do it later because I'm so busy," and as a result, it is a room I don't enjoy at all. Since my new resolve, however, I have worked very diligently at making my bedroom a haven because, as Stephanie demonstrates, that is how life ought to be lived. It should be enjoyed in all aspects.

* Why have so many people who never met Stephanie felt so moved by her story?

Because it involves three injustices of the worst kind: 1, Bad things happening to good people. Not just good people, but outstanding people who have personally inspired others around the globe, who set an example of loving God, loving each other, and loving their children. 2, The audacity of: Who gets in a plane crash? And finally, 3, Who survives a plane crash?

* Have you done anything personally (donated money, run an auction?) to help out the family since the accident? Please give details.

Yes. I have held two auctions on my blog, with a third auction running now and more planned (I've raised over $200 as of this email); I have participated in and won other auctions, donating money to the cause; I am in contact with family members to see what they need. Lucy, Stephanie's younger sister who is now charged with raising Steph's youngest son Nicholas (same age as my son -- 22 months old) has been a primary concern for everyone in our neighborhood and church congregation as we do what we can to provide for their cirucumstance. Everyone's doing what they can, and at the same time, everyone feels completely helpless.


In closing, I just have to tell you about something that happened the other day. On Sunday we had a combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting (5th Sunday), and with about ten minutes left, a nursery worker brought Gigs in to Lucy. Gigs had fallen asleep, and as I watched his thick little sleeping body being passed from Christine into Lucy's arms, I cried. She loves him so much, Stephanie. And she loves you, too. The love and concern for you and Christian and your children that I have felt and sensed around me is undeniable and has been an amazing, faith-testing and faith-building experience, as I'm certain it will continue to be for awhile.

Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with me. It is my honor.




Carina said...


I, too, had the email from Mr. Williams. I only took about 40 minutes to respond and I missed the deadline too.

Anonymous said...

Yes, beautiful. You know Mr. Williams would have edited the guts out of it anyway (not because it wasn't perfect--it is--but because that's what editors do) so I'm glad I got to read your version in it's entirety.

Geo said...

Not to be redundant, but this is beautiful, and that's the best word for it. I'm with CW—glad to read your unedited love.

ash said...

Thanks for letting me in on your letter to Stephanie.

I'm wiping away the tears thinking of Gigs and Lucy and still praying.

QueenScarlett said...

You touched me with this...especially that moment when you saw Gigs.

I appreciate the focus in the Times article about the joys of motherhood. We all know there's a lot of struggles that occur in mothering...but it is wonderful to focus on the joys.

swampbaby said...


Kaerlig said...

Makes me want to go give my kids a hug right now while they sleep.

Kim -today's creative blog said...

Thank you for bidding. Yes, it's for both sets! What a deal.

I'm so sorry for your friend. I hope all this positive energy we are creating will help their healing.

Rynell said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Kim said...

Thank you. I also can't stop thinking about what this sweet family is going through and feeling completely inadequate to help. What a tender moment to see Lucy holding Gigs in church.

Sister Pottymouth said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this. I've been wondering how Gigs is doing, since Courtney doesn't make as much mention of him in her updates. I'm glad that he and the other children are in such loving hands.

Maggie May said...

that was beautiful.

More Caffiene, Please said...

Okay, this was beautiful and the part about Gigs in Lucy's arms was the sweetest thing I've ever heard. You're so awesome.

Christina said...

What a beautifully written post. I wanted to let you know I got the card in the mail yesterday. Thanks again, Jenny.

Em-Cat said...

I'm sure Nie felt every word of this. Thank you for making me feel so inspired to be a better friend, sister, daughter, wife. I've never met Stephanie, I didn't even know her blog existed before her plane crash, but I've been addicted to the blogs who seem to dedicate themselves to her and Christian's recovery. God bless you, God bless your friend.

Anonymous said...

I just read this. I found Nie Nie Dialogues after the accident. I wish ...wish would have been I want to email her, tell Stephanie how much her blog means to silly as that sounds.

Your letter and comments to Mr. Williams put into words what I have been feelings for weeks now.

I don't know her, don't know CJane, or Lucy or Gigs or anyone...but hearing of them, of how they choose to live their lives makes me a better person.

Thank you for sharing your letter to Nie.

I write them to her in my head ...all the time. I think of her when looking at my 15 mo. old. Putting him to bed tonite, we said prayers for her, her family, kids and ALL her friends, including people like you.

When you wrote of Gigs and Lucy...I lost it at this computer.
The love that is encompassing the world ...that is passed by this story is something that should be written about in EVERY paper.

Anyways, thank you again. You are a good friend. No guilt about the deadline or the visit. :)

Thanks for sharing.