Dr. Mary Neal is a board-certified orthopaedic spine surgeon who drowned while kayaking on a South American river. She experienced life after death. She went to heaven and back, conversed with Jesus and experienced God’s encompassing love. She was returned to Earth with some specific instructions for work she still needed to do. Her life has been one filled with the miracles and intervention of God. Her story gives reason to live by faith and is a story of hope.
Dr. Neal was born and raised in Michigan and graduated from the University of Kentucky before attending the UCLA medical school. She completed her orthopaedic surgery training at the University of Southern California after which she lived in Sweden, Switzerland, and Los Angeles while undergoing 1 1/2 years of specialty training in spinal surgery before becoming the director of spine surgery at USC. Five years later, she left the University for private practice.
To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story
Amazon Book Description:
“In 1999 in the Los Rios region of southern Chile, orthopedic surgeon, devoted wife, and loving mother Dr. Mary Neal drowned in a kayak accident. While cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and she was immediately and completely submerged. Despite the rescue efforts of her companions, Mary was underwater for too long, and as a result, died.
“To Heaven and Back is Mary’s remarkable story of her life’s spiritual journey and what happened as she moved from life to death to eternal life, and back again. Detailing her feelings and surroundings in heaven, her communication with angels, and her deep sense of sadness when she realized it wasn’t her time, Mary shares the captivating experience of her modern-day miracle.
“Mary’s life has been forever changed by her newfound understanding of her purpose on earth, her awareness of God, her closer relationship with Jesus, and her personal spiritual journey suddenly enhanced by a first-hand experience in heaven. To Heaven and Back will reacquaint you with the hope, wonder, and promise of heaven, while enriching your own faith and walk with God.”
“What I find… remarkable… is how readily many people in our society believe outlandish and unsubstantiated urban myths and conspiracies… yet disregard thousands of personal and consistent testimonies of miracles and near-death experiences from people throughout all cultures and religions.” -- NDEr Dr. Mary Neal
“I had been very rigorous over the years with regard to restricting the amount of time I allowed myself to think about the events surrounding my own death and return to life. I love my life, I love my family dearly, and I know that my work on earth is not done. Despite that, recalling the alluring magnificence of God’s world too vividly would make it easy to be consumed by a deep longing to return. I have always guarded my heart by not thinking about it too vividly or for too long… I always found it emotionally draining and dangerous to spend too much time remembering not just the facts and events, but re-experiencing the actual emotions.” -- NDEr Dr. Mary Neal
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances.” -- Three quotes from the Bible that spoke to Mary while she was in the hospital
7 Lessons from Heaven: How Dying Taught Me to Live a Joy-Filled Life
Amazon Book Description:
In this inspired follow-up to her million-selling To Heaven and Back, Dr. Mary Neal shares untold stories about her encounters with Jesus and powerful insights about how the reality of heaven can make each day magnificent.
Dr. Mary Neal’s unforgettable account of a 1999 kayaking accident that took her life, and what happened next, has riveted more than a million readers. But something happened as she shared her story in the years since. Not only did Neal realize she had more to tell, she discovered she had yet to answer the biggest question of all: How does knowing heaven is real change our lives on Earth?
“I have never finished speaking at a venue, including corporate settings, without people wanting to know more,” says Dr. Neal. In 7 Lessons From Heaven, Neal takes readers deeper into her experience, which includes encounters with angels, a journey to a “city of light,” and what it was like to meet Jesus face-to-face. Even more, Neal shares how she was sent back with the absolute knowledge that the God we hope for -- the one who knows us, loves each of us as though we are the only one, and wants us to experience joy in our daily life -- is real and present. She offers practical insights and inspiration for how each of us can experience this God every day and begin living without regret, worry, anxiety, or fear.
MARY NEAL DESCRIBES HER VISIT TO THE GATES OF HEAVEN
Mark Galli Interviews Dr. Mary Neal Christianity Today December 6, 2012
Let’s get right to the point: What happened to you?
As background, my husband and I are avid outdoors people and very athletic. We’ve been kayaking for many, many, many years. We have kayaked on rivers throughout the United States, and we’ve kayaked internationally. So we decided to go to Chile to kayak with friends who are professionals -- they run a raft and kayak company in the United States, and during the winter, they run trips in Chile for Americans. We decided to kayak a section of a river that’s well-known for its waterfalls, and by that I mean drops of ten to fifteen feet. These are challenging for a kayaker, but they are not unreasonable, and they were certainly within our skill set.
We put in with four of these professionals and a few other Americans (though my husband couldn’t go that day because of back problems) and went over a couple of drops. It’s a fairly wide river with tremendous volume, tremendous flow. We decided to run this one smaller chute. The person who was kayaking ahead of me went toward it but got turned so that her boat was temporarily stuck. I was already in the current, so I was committed. I veered off to the left to avoid her and went over the main drop, which, as I said, had tremendous flow.
As I went over the top, I could see the bottom and that there was no clean exit. I assumed that I would hit the bottom, flip over, probably not be able to right myself, and then would pull the spray skirt off, push myself out of the boat, get tumbled around a bit, and spit out downstream. This is never an enjoyable experience, but it’s certainly part of kayaking. It wouldn’t have been the first time that it happened.
(And I might add that I grew up around the water. I grew up boating. I love the water. I’m a total water person. But I’d always feared a drowning death, and I always thought that was something that would just be terrifying and horrible.)
When I hit the bottom of the waterfall, the front of my boat became pinned in the rocks underwater. I and my boat were completely submerged in the water -- probably eight or ten feet under. One of the guys who ultimately tried to find me actually kayaked right over me and didn’t even know it.
You must have been terrified.
In fact, when this happened, I was very calm. I’m a spine surgeon. I’m used to high stress situations. And I’ve certainly been under water plenty of times in my boat. I immediately started to do the things that would either free the boat or extricate me from the boat. I tried to jiggle the boat. I tried to reach back and pull my spray skirt off, things like that. But the volume and force of the water was such that my torso was absolutely pressed to the front deck of the boat. I couldn’t move at all.
I am very much a pragmatist. I recognized my predicament. I knew that I was too far from shore for anyone to get there. And I also have seen a couple of people drown in waterfalls in the years I’ve been kayaking. So I knew that even if they could get to me, the likelihood of their being able to get my body out of the boat in time was pretty slim. Still, I didn’t panic and say, “Oh my gosh, God, get me out of this!” I made a conscious decision and asked only that God’s will be done.
Given your phobia, that’s an unexpected response.
At that point in my life -- and probably for the first time -- I sincerely gave up trying to control the outcome. I had many times prayed for something and then said, “Your will be done,” but I don’t think many of us actually mean it. We want God’s will to be done as long as it’s in line with what we want. I think it’s a very, very different thing when you begin to give up control of the outcome. At that point, I gave up control of the outcome.
And the minute I said that, I was immediately overcome with a very physical sensation of being held and comforted and reassured that everything was fine. My husband would be fine. My young children would be fine whether I lived or died. It was that word fine. It wasn’t happy or great, but it was fine.
I believe Christ was holding me. It took me a long time to say that to other people, because it seems presumptuous. Why would Christ be there to hold me? But this recognition was actually one of the profound aspects of this experience. I don’t have the words to explain how it happened. But I recognized that Christ was holding me, and Christ would hold anyone who asked.
Then I went through a little bit of a life review -- not so much looking at events in isolation but looking at the unseen ripple effects of those events, how an event had an impact not just one or two degrees removed but 16, 20, 25 degrees removed. This was another profound aspect of the experience. It made me truly understand that every action, every decision, every choice, every human interaction really does matter. You may not know it, and almost always you don’t recognize the impact. But everything really, really does matter.
What were you thinking when all this was happening?
I was still quite aware of my situation. I’m a cynic. My little thought balloon off to the side was taking all this in and thinking, Gosh, this is really curious. This is crazy.
I knew that I’d been underwater too long to be alive, but I felt more alive than I’ve ever felt. It all felt more real than anything has felt on earth. But I could still feel the water. I could still feel my boat. I could feel the current slowly pulling my body over the front deck of the boat. In doing so I could feel my knees bend back and break and the ligaments tear. But I had no pain. I had no fear. I had no terror. I felt great. And so I was thinking, Gosh, this is really, really something else!
So what happened next?
Then I felt my body break away from the boat, and as my body was coming out of the boat, I could feel my spirit peeling away from my body. I rose up and out of the river.
I was immediately greeted by a group of beings, spirits, people. I’m never really sure what to call them, because those words mean different things to different people. They were so overjoyed to see me and welcome me and love me, and I knew that they had known me and loved me as long as I existed. I knew -- and when I use that word know, it’s a very different sense of knowing -- I knew at an absolute, core level that they had been sent by God and were from God and were there to welcome me and guide me and protect me. People have asked, “Protect you from what?” I don’t know. I only know what I know. I don’t know what they were protecting me from.
What made you sense that they were like “people”?
They had physical form -- head, arms, legs -- and they were wearing something like robes. They were absolutely brilliant, radiating. And they were exuding this incredible love.
I, too, ask questions: Okay. Who were they? Was it my grandfather? My neighbor? It’s funny, because I knew that I knew them, but at the time, I didn’t actually look at them closely, because they were taking me down this incredibly beautiful path to this dome-like structure, which was exploding with color and this absolute pure love of God. I knew that was basically the point of no return. It was the entrance to heaven -- whatever, however you want to describe it, that was where I was going. When I greeted these people and was greeted by them, it was more like, “I know you, but we have plenty of time to chit-chat later. I want to get down this path.”
What else were you seeing at this point?
As we were going down the path, I could simultaneously look back at the scene on the river. I could see my body being pulled ashore, and I could see a guy start CPR, and I knew that it was on me. And I looked at my body fondly and thought, Thanks, that was a good ride. See you later.
One of the guys doing CPR kept looking up, and I thought he was looking right at me. He kept calling me to take a breath. Eventually I’d be overcome with compassion and go back and take a breath, and then I would leave again. It was very interesting to talk to him later, because we were both equally irritated with each other. I wanted to strangle him because he was interfering with my progress, and he wanted to strangle me because I would take a breath, and then I’d stop breathing again! And the cycle would keep going. So it was interesting to corroborate that sequence of events later.
I was also absolutely overcome by the sense of being home, of being where I truly belonged. And I was surprised by the fact that I was not coming back. I love my husband dearly. I love my children more than I could ever imagine loving something on earth. But in comparison to God’s love, the love I feel here is pale. I mean, I was home.
I knew I’d had a great life to that point, and I was surprised that I had absolutely no desire to return. I still feel a little guilty saying that. I didn’t talk about this for many years partly because until my kids were old enough, I would not have wanted them to hear me say that. Out of context and before you have understanding -- for a kid to think that they’re not enough of a reason to come back is terrible. But at that point, I could hardly wait to get to the threshold of God’s kingdom of heaven.
Did you ever get to the threshold?
Eventually we did get to the big arched entryway, and inside I could see many, many other spirits, angels, people -- I don’t know what they were. They were all running around. They were all very busy, and I’m not sure what they were doing, but I knew that they were busy doing God’s work. When I arrived they looked up and had this same sense of absolute joy at my arrival.
Another profound part of the experience -- and again, I can’t explain it using three-dimensional language: During that time, it became absolutely clear to me that these people were joyful not only at my arrival but at the arrival of every person who shows up. More importantly, I understood how God can actually know each one of us, love each one of us as though we were the only one, and can have an incredible plan for each one of us. That’s something that before this experience was difficult for me to grasp. But during this time, it became absolutely clear to me how that can be, and how all of God’s promises are true.
To be continued