To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story

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Overview

A kayak accident during a South American adventure takes one woman to heaven — where she experienced God’s peace, joy, and angels — and back to life again.
 
 
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 ...

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To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story

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Overview

A kayak accident during a South American adventure takes one woman to heaven — where she experienced God’s peace, joy, and angels — and back to life again.
 
 
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 you own faith and walk with God.

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  • To Heaven and Back
    To Heaven and Back  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

When Dr. Mary Neal went kayaking that day in southern Chile, she wasn't planning a death-defying feat; just an exciting tourist adventure. But then, as she cascaded down the waterway, something went incredibly wrong, and she wound up, pinned to the bottom; underwater, for fifteen minutes. During that heart-stopping time, this good-hearted orthopedic surgeon was transported to Heaven where she communicated with angels before making her return to the living. In this extraordinary memoir, she writes movingly about the near-death experience that has indelibly changed how she lives each day. A trade paperback and NOOK Book original.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307731715
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 25,352
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary C. Neal, M.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon. She studied at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, completed her orthopaedic residency at the University of Southern California and is fellowship trained as a spinal surgeon. She is the former Director of Spine Surgery at the University of Southern California and is a founding partner of Orthopedic Associates of Jackson Hole. Her after-life experience has been featured on national media including WGN, Dr. Oz, and Fox and Friends. She has served as a church elder, on several non-profit organization boards, and created the Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Fund. Dr. Neal lives with her family in Jackson Hole, WY.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

“The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.” —Helen Keller
 
God and His angelic messengers are present and active in our world today and this involvement and intervention is both ordinary in its frequency and extraordinary in its occurrence. Despite leading what I would consider a very ordinary life, I have had the privilege of being touched by God in visible and very tangible ways. One of these experiences began on January 14, 1999, when I was vacationing in South America with my husband. While boating, I was pinned underwater in my kayak and drowned. I died and went to heaven. After a brief stay, I was returned to my body. I returned to my earthly life with two shattered legs and severe pulmonary problems. I was hospitalized for more than a month, wheelchair bound for even longer, and did not return to my orthopaedic surgery practice for more than six months.

Many have described my accident as terrible and tragic. I describe it as one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. The series of events surrounding my accident and recovery were nothing short of miraculous. Not only did I have the privilege of experiencing heaven, but I continued to experience the intensity of God’s world and conversed with Jesus several times in the weeks after my return.

Through this experience and conversation, I gained an understanding of many of life’s important questions, such as “What happens when we die?”, “Why are we here?”, and “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I also gained an understanding of the disciple Paul’s statement from 1 Corinthians 13 that of faith, hope, and love, the most enduring is love. I already had reasons to believe in miracles, but taking a journey to heaven and back transformed my faith into knowledge and my hope into reality. My love remained unchanged and everlasting.

One of the several reasons for my return to earth was to tell my story to others and help them find their way back to God. During my initial recovery, I was invited to share my story with small groups in my community and these people shared my story with their friends and family. As it was spread to many parts of the country, I was often told of the profound impact my story made on the lives of the people who heard it. In the process of sharing, I realized that my story does not really belong to me, but to God and is meant to be shared. It has inspired many people, stimulated discussion, and has often resulted in a rejuvenated relationship with God. It has lessened people’s fear of death and increased their passion for living a full and meaningful life. My story has deepened people’s faith and given them hope for the future.
 
  Noblesse Oblige: With Privilege Comes Responsibility
 
Truly, God does not give us a lamp so we can hide it under a basket or a bed. He gives each of us a lamp so we may give light to the world. Light always dissipates the emptiness of darkness. Ultimately, I felt that if the reading of my story could bring even one person closer to God, it would be worth the writing. Thus, I began to set down on paper an account of my observations and experiences. What I could not have known, and did not know as I worked to complete my manuscript, was that the sense of urgency compelling me to complete it was also God’s hand at work in my life. For the story did not end there…
 

Introduction

 
“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” —Psalm 61:1–2 (NRS)
 
The tiny two-track road in the remote mountains of Mexico was saturated with rain from the previous night. It was late in the day and we were still several hours from the main road when our dilapidated truck slid off the road and immediately sank into the thick brown mud that formed the shoulder of the road. Our traveling group consisted of the fifteen-year old me, an adult missionary couple, another teenager, and a little baby. Our truck’s spinning wheels were unable to gain traction and the truck quickly sank to its axels. Our anxiety level rose quickly, as we knew that it would be a nearly impossible struggle for us to free the wheels of our truck. It was equally impossible for us to walk far enough to find help. We were not prepared for this sort of delay. The baby would need food and we knew the temperatures would plummet once the sun dipped below the horizon. It was imperative that we get the truck back on the road, as we had driven this desolate stretch of road many times over the summer and had never seen another vehicle. We focused entirely on the task at hand and tried again and again to free the wheels. The depth of the mud seemed to have no limit, and our efforts appeared feeble. As we worked, we began to pray with great fervor and specificity: We prayed that God would “put rock under us,” and soon.
The words had barely floated off our lips when we were shocked to see a rusty old pickup truck rumbling up the road. The driver had taken a wrong turn and was trying to find his way to the main road. When told of our predicament, he graciously offered to give us a ride to town. The cab was too small to hold all of us, so we eagerly climbed into the truck bed and laughingly settled onto his cargo…of rocks. We were filled with joy at the sight of rock, knowing that our prayers had been heard.
Was this an answer to our specific prayers? Did God, albeit with a sense of humor, intervene in our lives and answer our prayers? Was the truck driver an angel or other messenger of God? Was this a miracle? Maybe it was just luck or a coincidence. A coincidence is defined as the “accidental occurrence of events that seem to have a connection.” Luck is a “force that brings good fortune or adversity. It favors chance.” For myself, I call it a miracle: an “event that is considered a work of God.”
The Bible describes many times when angels are sent by God to help those who are in need; often in times of turmoil, life-threatening situations, or at the moment of death. Miracles appear to be universal and are reported by Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Hindus. The Quran describes a miracle as the “supernatural intervention in the life of a human being.” The Catholic Church describes miracles as “works of God,” usually with a specific purpose, such as the conversion of a person to the faith. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a miracle as an “extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention.” Cynics claim that miracles defy the laws of nature and, therefore, cannot occur. As described by others who believe as I do, there is a different way to perceive a miracle.
 
Situation #1
A ball is dropped from a height and falls to the ground.
It obeys the laws of nature.
 
Situation #2
A ball is dropped from a height and falls toward the ground. A hand reaches out and catches it. It never reaches the ground. The ball has obeyed the laws of nature, but the hand has intervened. If the hand were God’s, we would have witnessed divine intervention without a defiance of the laws of nature.
 
 
I believe that God heard our heartfelt cry on that little road in Mexico and chose to intervene on our behalf. Although the answer was not what we expected, God gave us a specific answer to our specific prayer: He put rock under us.
Over the years, like most people, I have questioned my spirituality. I have wondered about the reality of God, the role of God in my life, wondered why so many bad things are allowed to happen, and wondered about the reality of life after death. Despite these questions and doubts, I witnessed countless numbers of answered prayers and occasions of divine intervention since this high school experience. I drowned while kayaking on a South American vacation and had the great pleasure, privilege, and gift of going to heaven and back. I had the opportunity to converse with angels and ask many questions. I gained much insight. As one result of this adventure, I have also had the opportunity of listening to many other people describe their own spiritual encounters and near-death experiences. Their stories usually begin with their saying, “I’ve never told anyone about this, because I didn’t think they would believe me, but….”
Is God present in our world today? Do miracles still occur? Are there really angels all around us? Does God keep His promises? Is there sufficient reason to live by faith? I believe the answer to each one of these questions is a definitive “yes” and I believe that you will come to this same conclusion as you read about the miracles I have seen and experienced.
 
 
Chapter 1, The Early Years

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
—Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
 
I was born and raised in an ordinary Midwestern town in Michigan. I lived in a middle-class neighborhood with my parents, Bob and Betty, two brothers, Rob and Bill, one sister, Betsy, and a small dachshund named Trinka. My father was a general surgeon and my mother was a homemaker. I enjoyed a pleasant childhood which, in some aspects, was idyllic. I did not always have everything I wanted, but never lacked for what I needed. Most importantly for any child, I always felt loved by my family. The creek flowing through the back of our property offered me great excitement and opportunity. I spent many hours in and on that creek; ice skating, boating, fishing, swimming, and exploring.
I learned about snails, slugs, and leeches. I learned what happens when a dog eats the bacon from a fishing hook, and I learned not to look a snapping turtle in the eye. My best friend and I built an elaborate fresh-water clam farm, only to find out later that pearls are made by oysters, not clams. It was great fun and it developed my love for being immersed in the outdoor natural world.

My family attended the local Presbyterian Church, participating in a denomination in which my grandfather, great-grandfather, and great great grandfather had been ordained ministers. Our tall, traditional stone church stood proudly on the town square. While the outside was rather formal and not very inviting, its interior arched toward the sky, beautifully displaying large multicolored stained glass windows. The pews were wellworn and made of a rich and deeply-colored wood. My siblings and I sat through Sunday school and confirmation classes, church services, and the occasional youth group gatherings, but these activities were mechanical and boring to me. Although I willingly attended, these various activities seemed to have little impact on my life.

My brothers and sister and I certainly never developed a relationship with a living, loving God while growing up, and I don’t recall ever being expected to incorporate God or Jesus Christ into my daily life or thoughts. God seemed to be a “Sunday thing” and I do not remember my parents discussing spirituality or religion in our home. In many ways, however, they did model a Christian life for their children. My mother was loving, always supportive, and was an active volunteer in numerous service organizations. My father showed great compassion for those who were less fortunate in their circumstances and he was selfless in his profession as a surgeon.

I would often trail behind my father as he checked on his patients in the hospital or when he was called to the emergency room on weekends. I perceived that his was a life of service, in which he was always kind and respectful to others, was not motivated by money, and always put the feelings and needs of others before his own. As I approached my teenage years, I became more independent and began to hold my own opinions. I discovered that although my father was good at doing activities together, he was not very good at sharing his feelings with me or discussing topics that I considered meaningful or difficult. I adored him in spite of his flaws and was stunned in the spring of 1970 when my parents’ relationship crumbled and my mother asked him to move out of our home.

Divorce was still scandalous at that time and I was outraged when my parents’ divorce became final in the autumn of 1971. I was in the seventh grade and quickly became a confused and angry adolescent. When confronted by their divorce listing in the newspaper, I could no longer deny that my 1950s-esque image of an all-American family had been exploded. During that period, church attendance was one of the few stable aspects of my life.

My two older siblings were already in college and my brother and I continued to live with my mother in our childhood home. Each Sunday morning, my father would drive me to the local greasy spoon for breakfast, then to Church services. I was still embarrassed, and probably angry, about my parents’ divorce, so refused to attend the Presbyterian Church services with him. Instead, we went to the morning service at the local Episcopal Church. We would usually go for a walk after church then return to his apartment to finish the day with a dinner of baked chicken and green beans: the only dinner he ever knew how to make. While I recognized his limitations, I still clung to the fantasy of his returning to my home, and of our family returning to the ideal of my remembered childhood.

My mother was young, attractive, and interesting, so I should not have begrudged her the desire to date, but I did so anyway and tried to disrupt the process in any way possible. Mack was the first guy who was serious about my mom after Dad moved out. One evening when I returned home, I discovered that he managed to eat all of the cookies I had just baked (none of which had been intended for him) and I was furious. I made my opinion clear and I was delighted never to see him again. George was the next man who successfully captured mom’s attention. He was the general manager of the country club where my brothers worked, and they had told him about our mother.

After my brothers persistently nudged him to call, a beautiful courtship developed between George and my mother. Although my parent’s divorce had long been final, I still hated the concept of my mother having a “boyfriend.” To his credit, George was funny, kind, gentle, understanding, and extremely patient. He also gave the best and longest back-scratches known to mankind, which, I might add, was a very successful way to break through my hostility! He loved my mom and he loved her children, so when my mom held a family conference about a year after they started dating and asked for our permission to marry George, it was impossible to deny her that happiness. In my heart, I remained conflicted. George was a decent man, and I thought he would be a reasonable stepfather, but I continued to pray daily for the return of my father and for the return of the life I had known.

Until the very moment in 1973 when the preacher officially declared Mom and George “husband and wife,” I continued to pray that my father would arrive to interrupt the wedding ceremony and reclaim his family. When this didn’t happen, I concluded that God hadn’t listened to my most desperate of prayers and certainly hadn’t answered them. In my disappointment, I discarded the very notion of praying. I was only one very small creature on a planet of more than four billion people; if there really was a God, why should He listen to me or answer my prayers? I decided that my thoughts about an omnipresent God who cares about individuals had likely been a childish and silly belief so I decided to “move on,” leaving my beliefs about God behind me.

I was a smart, accomplished, self-confident fifteen-year old young woman. I thought I knew what was best for me and believed that I was capable of\creating my own future without divine input. What was unrecognizable to me at that time was how God not only had heard my most desperate plea, but answered it in a way that was greater and more fulfilling than I could ever have imagined. Through my mother’s marriage, God gave me a stepfather who was steadfast in his loving, gentle, and gracious manner. George was supportive and respectful. As a parent, he taught me about joy, friendship, and responsibility. He modeled what a loving, respectful marriage looks like, and he became one of the most important influences in my life. God promises that He has plans for us to give us hope and a future and He kept this promise. George coming into my life was definitely not the answer I had prayed for. It was better.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii

Prologue xv

Introduction xix

Chapter 1 The Early Years 1

Chapter 2 Spinning Out of Control 9

Chapter 3 Mexico 13

Chapter 4 Spiritual Reawakening 19

Chapter 5 God Is Faithful 25

Chapter 6 An Attitude of Joy 31

Chapter 7 God Shouts When Necessary 37

Chapter 8 Breaking the Bonds 47

Chapter 9 An Adventure in Chile 53

Chapter 10 Death on the River 61

Chapter 11 My Rescue 67

Chapter 12 Going Home 75

Chapter 13 Angels by the River 85

Chapter 14 Return to Wyoming 91

Chapter 15 The Power of Prayer 97

Chapter 16 Clarity of Vision 101

Chapter 17 Conversing with an Angel 107

Chapter 18 The Patient Care Unit 115

Chapter 19 My Physical Recovery 121

Chapter 20 Bob 127

Chapter 21 My Beloved George 135

Chapter 22 Inspiration to Others 143

Chapter 23 God Rolls the Stone Away 151

Chapter 24 Willie 155

Chapter 25 Bill 165

Chapter 26 Chad 169

Chapter 27 Compulsion to Write 173

Chapter 28 The Longest Day of the Year 181

Chapter 29 My Beautiful Son 185

Chapter 30 The Other Side of Time 189

Chapter 31 Gifts of Compassion 195

Chapter 32 Perfect Timing 203

Chapter 33 Logical Conclusions 213

Giving Back 223

Q&A with Dr. Neal 225

About the Author 235

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Interviews & Essays

Q&A with Mary C. Neal, M.D.

author of

To Heaven and Back:A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story

How did you feel when you died? Did you know what was happening?
I was acutely aware of everything that was happening. I knew that my efforts to exit the boat were not working, that I was out of air, and that I was too far from the riverbank for anyone to reach me. I knew that I would probably die. Having grown up with a fear of drowning, I was surprised to find my transition from life to death was seamless, peaceful, and beautiful. I felt quite wonderful.

What was your faith life like before your death?
Before my near-death-experience, I believed in God and took my kids to Sunday school but was not particularly religious. Like many accomplished young adults, I felt like I was in control of my life and my future. Although I tried to be a “good” and “moral” person, my faith was not integrated into my daily life and the demands of work and family left little time to think about spirituality.

With my near-death-experience, the truth of God's promises and the reality of eternal life became a part of my every breath. I am in constant prayer and regardless of what I am doing, I try to reflect God's love and live for His glory. I try not to miss opportunities to uplift or encourage the spiritual life of others, and I live with gratitude and joy, knowing that I never face challenges alone.

Why do you think you came back to life?
I certainly didn't want to return to Earth, but was given information about some of the work I had yet to complete and wasn't really given a choice. I was expected to share my experiences and my story with others, helping transform their faith into compete trust that God keeps His promises.

Do you have any regrets about this experience?
I have not a hint of regret. In fact, my death and return to life is the greatest gift I have ever received, and I am continually grateful for having had this experience.

How do you explain why this happened to you?
I have always been a private person, am not known to be a writer, and do not relish the attention of speaking. I have been asked this question many times. I do not know the answer, but I am a scientist by training, a skeptic by nature, and a very concrete, rational thinker. Perhaps, I was given this job because I have a developed a lifetime of credibility.

How is your experience compared to others who've gone to heaven and come back to physical life?
I have not read many accounts of other people's experiences, but I have had many patients over the years tell me about their own near-death experiences. It seems that most stories, mine included, contain some consistent elements — that of an overwhelming sense of God's love and forgiveness, intense peace and beauty and no desire to return to Earth. Everyone recalls the details with precision and each person is profoundly affected by the experience. In these ways, my experience is quite similar.

What do you want people to know about heaven?
God's unconditional love for each of us is intense, complete, and is reflected in all of Heaven. Before we return to Heaven, our real home, we have an incredible opportunity on Earth to face challenges that will help us learn, grow and to become more Christ-like in the fruits of our spirit. Our time is so short that we need to be about God's business every day.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 295 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 295 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2012

    AMAZING READ! While reading Dr Neal's book I kept coming back to

    AMAZING READ!
    While reading Dr Neal's book I kept coming back to that line from Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

    This book isn't a cozy read - parts are downright excruciating to hear and difficult to imagine. It can't be easy for her to tell it, except for a strange grace she was given. I imagine that folks who read it to with an eye to validating a firmly-held dogmatic religious or agnostic position will be irritated. She isn't proselytizing or lecturing or apologizing - she is simply relaying the facts of her own strange tale with an unadorned, almost surgical precision. In thinking about it, that's precisely the power of this book - Dr Neal is a hard person to dismiss. She doesn't seem fanciful or eccentric or disenfranchised or neurotic or a religious fanatic or needy or any of the traits I had expected. Her voice rings out unusually clear and fresh, cool and concise. It's because of this, even more than her impressive resume, that I find her credible.

    The actual tale is emotionally moving, occasionally disturbing, spiritually and intellectually challenging. At the end of it I find myself with a delicious sense of wonder that life is more beautiful than we can conceive, that there is more going on than anyone can imagine, that God is impossible to wrap into a tidy, presentable box because our ideas about Him are too cramped and small. Ultimately I was left with a sense that life is incredibly important and should be honored, and I have an ever-growing hope that our loved ones are near, that we will see them again and that all is well, here and there. What a powerful read!

    131 out of 138 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2012

    I must preface this review by stating that I am a bible believin

    I must preface this review by stating that I am a bible believing Christian. I believe that salvation is for those who call Jesus Christ Lord, and is available to all who do. I received this book with the understanding that it is a "Christian" read, however, not only was I was terribly disappointed in it being labeled as such, I was incredibly disturbed by the doctrine presented.

    I do believe after having read this book that Mary had a supernatural experience and passed over the threshold from life to death, and being a believer in Christ, which she openly acknowledges, I am certain she was destined to live out all of her eternity in Heaven. However, it seemed as though she believed this to be the case for all who pass from life to death, and even mentions in the book that if the person who passed did not have saving faith upon death, then the gate would be an opportunity to then "choose God, or to turn away-for eternity" (pg73). I felt like much of the book was simply impious, distasteful and I found myself sorry that it was available to people who do not know Jesus, as I felt this book written to assure everyone that what Mary experienced will be the norm for everyone, as she makes no clear assertion otherwise; meaning she never once connects her belief in Jesus Christ to her being ushered to Heaven's gate. She refers only to God, not Christ, in whom salvation comes through. It is obvious that this book was written to be palatable to everyone, because most believe in a"higher power", but the name Jesus always seems to ruffle some feathers.

    Mysticism was also interwoven in much of her recollections throughout this book: she communicated with an angel through an owl, a woman's deceased husband spoke to her in a dream in order to warn Mary about being careful(after the accident had already happened),and trees supernaturally blooming just to name a few. There was heavier emphasis on these signs and presence of angels than on the Lord God himself.

    The most disturbing thing for me to read in this book was Mary's use of the name Jesus and "the angel" interchangeably when referring to lucid dreams/visions she had while in the hospital.

    One day when I meet Jesus, as any Christian can attest themselves, I should know for certain when I am in the presence of my King, and should hope if anything to worship at His feet in complete love and adoration, not carry on a casual conversation with him, uncertain of who he was exactly.

    As a follower of Jesus Christ I found this book to be a terrible representation of Christian doctrine, and believe it to be damaging to the progression of the Gospel, giving people a reason to rest easy while they are here, and worry about eternity when they get there.

    John 14:6
    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing group has provided me with this book complimentary for review purposes.

    96 out of 155 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2012

    Sorry I bought it

    Saw the author on Fox News. She gave a very good interview and I thought this was going to be something other than what it was. I was hoping to read an uplifting Christian book. Unfortunately, it was long on supernatural superstition and short on scriptural basis. I don't want to be critical of her experience and I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt... up until the part where she believed God was telling her what to do by having an owl follow her around and stare at her. I'm so disappointed. This one is going to have to go in the round file.

    74 out of 137 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing Story! I found this book inspiring and compelling. Dr.

    Amazing Story!
    I found this book inspiring and compelling. Dr. Mary Neal brings a scientific and logical mind to a number of events that reveal that God is alive and well in this world, and in the next. She describes in a straight forward and unembellished voice her near death experience and other life events that both challenged her and convinced her that God has a plan for each of us. She does not push a particular religious or political agenda, but rather attempts to relay what she has learned from her very unique experiences. She's a messenger who will help answer some of the questions we've all pondered about God and the existence of Heaven. You cannot read this book without believing that, with God, all things are possible.

    56 out of 61 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    "Many have said that my experience is remarkable. What I fi

    "Many have said that my experience is remarkable. What I find more remarkable, however, is how readily many people in our society believe outlandish and unsubstantiated urban myths and conspiracies (Pop Rocks and Coke, JFK assassination, AIDS is man-made, etc.), yet disregard thousands of personal and consistent testimonies of miracles and near-death experiences from people throughout all cultures and religions." (pg 205).

    Dr. Mary C. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, thought she had an understanding of heaven, angels and Jesus being a believer from a young age, but nothing would prepare her more, than dying and getting first hand knowledge that everything she ever believed was not only true, she had to tell others. That is precisely what she did many years later after her children had grown from when she first drowned in a kayaking accident in Chile.

    That is the one significant thing in talking with anyone who has died, gone to heaven and returned, they never forget the precise details no matter how long it's been. Unlike trying to recall a wedding or even the birth of a child, the longer you wait in between talking about it, some of the details fade. Mary Neal felt God was now telling her to take what she experienced and not only share in through her words in a book, but even now she incorporates that into the care of her patients as well.

    In the novel, To Heaven and Back, Mary C. Neal describes her life leading up to her death and what happens long afterwards, sharing with the reader how many of the events could be described by some as luck, good fortune or karma. However when you connect the dots in all these circumstances, it becomes clear, that God's divine hand was orchestrating it all and in fact continues to do so. Not much time is spent on her time in Heaven since she wasn't allowed in, but merely got up to the entrance point, but what lives on even now in her life, continues to impact those around her.

    I received To Heaven and Back compliments of WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers for my honest opinion and truly believe what Mary experienced is real. To doubt her word, would mean you had more information into what happened than she did, and I would find that hard to believe. Mary isn't hoping to make a profit off her experience and is in fact donating portions of the sale of this book to many non-profit charitable organizations you would find on her website.

    The one thing that remains consistent for me, in reading her story is prayer to God was invaluable not only in the difficult roads in her life, but offering up thanksgiving and gratitude in those prayers as well. Being a huge believer in the power of prayer, I LOVE how simply stated Mary's experience truly was and gives me hope that we will live a long eternal life after we simply finish our jobs here. I rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars in my personal opinion and it's a great source of comfort to those wondering if life exists past this one besides the Bible and who may be grieving.

    46 out of 48 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    Highly Recommended- This is a must read!

    If you are looking for a book that will uplift your faith and make you evaluate the divine pattern of your life, this book is for you. Dr. Neal tells the story of her divine experience with beautiful detail and even humor. This book is not heavy on biblical verse (thankfully) but does incorporate some scripture without slowing down the pace of the narrative. This is a story of an extraordinary human who has an even more extraordinary afterlife experience. She sends a message in her story that all of us are special to God and God has a plan for all of us. We need to pay attention to this plan. This book is a part of it.

    45 out of 51 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2012

    Dr. Neal puts her real life experiences into a book that is fasc

    Dr. Neal puts her real life experiences into a book that is fascinating, exceptional and spiritual. If you don't believe in the higher powers above...you will after you read this! Guaranteed! Previously posted reviews that are anything less than this don't get it. Dr. Neal is not trying to tell you about God or push her religious beliefs on you. She's tells of Faith, Hope and Love. When you find these you will find God. Finding God is up to you....God is there, you just have to know when he's talking to you. Once you lose a child, you too will know that Faith, Hope and Love is all you have left in this world. Great read.

    28 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2012

    Excellent.

    This is certainly one of the best books I've read on near death experiences. Dr. Neal does a tremendous job of relaying the details and importance of her accident vis a vis its spiritual dimensions. As I read the book, I kept thinking: "Dr. Neal has a very similar view to mine on life and the afterlife." Some people will find fault with anything, particularly if it isn't cloaked in the expected trappings of evangelical subculture, but Dr. Neal clearly espouses orthodox Christianity, as she interprets the drama in Chile and its lessons for a daily walk with Jesus Christ.

    23 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2012

    I find it interesting that my only complaint is the last persons

    I find it interesting that my only complaint is the last persons statement of Lack! I found this an extremely uplifting book that helped reinforce my spiritual belief system. As a Hospice Nurse and a 12 step person I have had many experiences of miracles in the last 25 years and still find it helpful to have them reinforced from others. I would recommend this book to anyone who is having any doubts about their connection with a Higher Power (or God if you prefer). To my only complaint - it would be the "Christian" focus. Though I did not find it so troublesome that I wouldn't recommend the book to people who may not share that focus!

    20 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    This book should be called the "Autobiography of Dr. Neal"

    I expected to read a book about the doctor's perspective on the near death experience as described in the book insert instead I was reading her autobiography. She was rambling on and on about her beliefs, career changes, family, etc. Although some of it was interesting and inspiring out of 167 pages of the book about 20 were actually about her true experience with angels and her crossing to another world. If she really truly wanted to spread the word of GOD this book would not have the monetary value on it and she won't be on TV promoting it to increase her sales.

    20 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    I enjoy reading personal narratives about heaven.The content of

    I enjoy reading personal narratives about heaven.The content of this book was very different from what I anticipated. I expected a more detailed account of Dr. Neal's visit to heaven rather than so much autobiographical information. I was also confused by the fact that Dr. Neal professes to be a Christian, yet the account of her heavenly escort and visitation were not scriptural by any means. I do not doubt that she had some type of experience, but it made me feel that it was more "other-worldly" than "heavenly".

    15 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2012

    Each person that goes on and has the opportunity to return, can

    Each person that goes on and has the opportunity to return, can have a very different experience. We essentially should be open and not rely on our pre-trained knowledge of the afterlife, no matter what religious or non religious backgorund we have.

    12 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2012

    I think most people are curious about supernatural experienc

    I think most people are curious about supernatural experiences. First, it makes for interesting reading.
    Second, I am always on the lookout for a feel good quick read. The way I read this type of story is to be critical but open minded. I am always careful with what I believe , I think that it is only natural to be a little skeptical. Let me say that I found your book well written and from the heart. This book was food for my soul and worth the money. thanks

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2012

    Recommend to any readers

    I really enjoyed this book, thank you for sharing your experience with us. I have been a nurse for 31 years and have had the privilege to talk with other patients that have had similar experiences. I have also been in many situations where I have been part of a team that has worked with the patient to revive them and bring them back from brink of death. I was blessed to be with my precious mother when she was called home, and the smiles that she had with her last breath, I will never forget, with that she gave me a glimpse of Heaven she was seeing. Thank you again for sharing with us your own experience.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2012

    First and foremost I must say that I am a huge skeptic. I don't

    First and foremost I must say that I am a huge skeptic. I don't believe
    it if I don't see it with my own two eyes. So going into this book I was
    expecting to read about absurd and crazy events, but as Neal started
    telling about her early life I realized that maybe this book wasn't
    written for publicity.  The beginning of the book was slow for me.
    Although I was grateful for Neal writing about her early life towards
    the end of the book, at the moment I wished she would have started with
    the incident that sent her to heaven. I felt comforted that she too, had
    faith problems in her teenage years. Upon reading about the many almost
    unbelievable coincidences Neal had made me wonder if we really do have a
    guardian angel with us at all times, and if angels do exist, then there
    most certainly is a higher power that sent them to protect us right? 
    One of my favorite moments in the book was from chapter 21 when Neal's
    stepfather, George, planted a pear tree so he and his wife (Neal's
    mother) could enjoy its vibrant pink blossoms, but the tree never
    blossomed. That is, until George died in the hospital of a bout of
    pneumonia. The next day at Neal's mother's house, they looked out the
    window and saw that the pear tree was overflowing with pink blossoms.
    The blossoms lasted well after the winter even when all the other trees
    were barren. The entire book is sprinkled with little miracles and
    coincidences here and there that reinforce the thought of a higher
    power. Overall, I enjoyed the book very much although it was easy to put
    down. I'm definitely more willing to believe in god after reading this
    book and I'm absolutely positive about one thing; coincidences aren't
    just coincidences anymore. Things happen for a reason.  Disclosure: I
    received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as
    part of their Blogging for Books program, but this review is completely
    my own. I chose the book I wanted to read, they mailed it to me, and I
    have given my honest opinion of it.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2012

    5 Stars

    Extraordinary.

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    I wasted money on this book. Page 73. Same old 'new age' mumbo

    I wasted money on this book. Page 73. Same old 'new age' mumbo-jumbo. The owl followed her and her mother (who came to visit her because she was in poor health) told her to go visit her step father? The blooming roses were a message from her son after his death? The blooming bradford pear tree was a message from her step father? My goodness, can you imagine the sensory overload she gets every spring connecting flowering plants to a message from dead loved ones?

    7 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2012

    Dr. Neal has crafted a beautiful testimony of God's unconditiona

    Dr. Neal has crafted a beautiful testimony of God's unconditional love and purpose for every person. Her story is easy to read, and I finished it in one sitting. As some reviewers have commented, while I at first expected more details of her trip to heaven and what she saw and heard, I feel her emphasis on God's plan for each of us and how events and people are all interconnected is something we can all be encouraged and blessed by. I have never had a NDE, but I have personally experienced visions and miracles in my life. I believe everyone experiences miracles and "God touches" but not everyone recognizes them when they occur. Dr. Neal's honest account of her life and family before and after her NDE is a powerful reminder that God never leaves our side. Her book illustrates how we only see "in part" and that God has a bigger, eternal tapestry which He is lovingly weaving with each of our lives. To Heaven and Back is comforting and refreshing - like a drink of cool water - yet at the same time, a gentle reminder to be about God's business every day by loving Him and loving those He places in our life. I believe this book will lead readers to be more open and "tuned in" to the myriad ways God is guiding them and leading them back to Him.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Deat

    To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story byMary C. Neal is a new book in the newly popular genre of "Christian" near death experience autobiographies. The market is becoming saturated with near death experience based stories that describe heaven and the afterlife in great detail. It is no wonder- mankind has always had an interest in the spiritual world and afterlife. People are made to experience eternity and we have questions of course, about heaven, and God. The thing is, that the answers are to be found in the bible, and I am very cautious of any private revelation that pruports to have visions or answers of the afterlife.

    The author, Dr. Mary C. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, experiences a traumatic kayak accident during a South American trip. Allegedly she drowns- and dies and finds herself experiencing heaven and actually communicates with angels. The story chronicles her life as well as her spiritual journey and her detailed and vivid account of heaven. There is an extraordinary amount of detail of the author's life prior to the accident. I believe that the detail of her life and medical practice is an attempt to increase her credibility. At times, the extent of personal background seems to be similar to a resume or dissertation as i feel the inclusion of the material is to add confidence in the sanity of the author so as to make the story more legitimate. Needless to say, her personal experience impacts her awareness and her spiritual understanding. Yet, this book may simply leave the reader with an unfulfilled desire to have a similar experience as if that is needed to validate a Christian faith.

    This book reminds me of the recently published Heaven is for Real account by pastor Todd Burpo which also claims to be an account of a true story. A pastor, writes the account of his son's trip to heaven, that happened during the emergency surgery of his 4 year old son near death experience. While alleged near death experiences are somewhat common, based on the media attention in documentaries, articles and even books, what makes these stories unique is the fact that they come from credible members of society: medical doctors, or pastors- who are generally respected.

    Even though this story is easy to read and easy to follow, it raises spiritually complex issues such as the issue of the legitimacy of private visions apart from revealed scripture. While it is true that some NDE can be ruled out as the side effects of a dying or injured brain, not all can be scientifically ruled out. Some perhaps might be supernatural in nature. Nevertheless that does not mean they should automatically be accepted as biblical in nature or truth. I must admit I am skeptical when it comes to believing modern day visions and NDE. For example, there are so many alleged apparitions of Mary in the Catholic church, that I believe most to be hoaxes, and in other cases, demonic in nature. Once the reader decides to accept the author's word that this story is legit, it is up to the reader to discern the source or supernatural power behind the NDE. This is where most readers will most likely accept with blind faith that this is a true account and that it is based on biblical truth. This is because most people want to believe this heartwarming and comforting message is true.


    Any responsible reader familiar with the bible will be aware that he or she is faced with the task of determining if the experience of the author is spiritually based on truth, or if it perhaps is an indirect attempt of Satan to mislead believers into accepting false information. Paul warned in the letters of the new testement, especially in the book of Galations, that even Satan, and evil spirits can appear as angels of light, deceiving many. That possibility must be acknowledged by anyone who reads this book. While Paul acknowledged the possibility of personal visions in the ancient church, he himself did not place on any believer the burden of accepting any other private vision other than the message containe din the gospel. As far as the details- knowledge could be obtained from evil sources for the purpose of adding "authenticity" and misleading believers into believeing the other aspects of the visions shared. The evil spirits are known for mixing truth with falsehood. We are in a spiritual battle, and nothing is off limits as far as the evil spirits of this world are concerned. they will try all sorts oftricky and decieving deceptions. They will try any underhanded tactic even going so far as using a respected medical doctor, and beloved mother as tools to mislead others. It isn't always obvious to everyone to sort truth from untruth unless they are firmly grounded in the Holy Spirit. Even those involved in the occult such as palm readers and fortune tellers, can sometimes fortell the future or the past with amazing accuracy with supernatural information supplied by the evil spirit realm. The details of the throne of God, the angels and other aspects are questionable, as to their spiritual authenticity.
    As a blogger for Water Brook I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. It is with caution I would suggest this book to anyone to read. unless of course that reader is willing to take the time to discern, in light of scripture, the validity of the message presented by the author's NDE.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    Buy this book!!! I did and I read it and i loved it- I couldn't

    Buy this book!!! I did and I read it and i loved it- I couldn't hardly put it down. I was inspired to read about her heavenly experience and that is only one part of this book. Reading about how God has directed her in her life was also fascinating to read about. The author's life and her family's life has not been a bed of roses and reading about that and how Jesus put people in her life to comfort her is beautiful! That is how Jesus works, nothing in life is a coincidence!! I recommended this book already to alot of people and have passed on the book to someone else to read. It really is a great book!!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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