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

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

3.9 303
by Mary C. Neal

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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…  See more details below


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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The Crown Publishing Group
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“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…


“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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To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 303 reviews.
PattiChristensen More than 1 year ago
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!
E_Cleland More than 1 year ago
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.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
"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.
colivos More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Svihov More than 1 year ago
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 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.
PubliusRB More than 1 year ago
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.
goose49 More than 1 year ago
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!
Old_Narnian More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
geo1 More than 1 year ago
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
Jay_Andrade More than 1 year ago
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.
Benedocet More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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".
dogloverMG More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!!
stacycsmith More than 1 year ago
Honest, down to Earth and written exceptionally well. I highly recommend this book to anyone. Although Dr. Neal's background is Christian, she is not at all preachy or exclusive in her thinking. To the contrary, she does a wonderful job communicating the fact that we all belong to God and are all welcome to His love and joy. I found this book to be reassuring and celebratory. It inspires me to take whatever circumstances I have at any moment, find the goodness around me and share it with others. Five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author of this book clearly has a feelings based faith and mixes whatever philosofy that feels "right" with Christianity. This includes paganism (owls thatshe believes are angels); mormonism (a woman who visits her in the hospital claiming her dead mormon husband helped save her life during the authors accident) and conversing with the dead just to name a few instances. This woman has no concept of biblical truths or what the bible speaks clearly about and against. She has been spiritually misled and is misleading others. And shehas quite the ego. If you want a real story about heaven untainted by personal desire or demonic influence read Heaven is For Real or 90 Minutes in heaven.
PJtheEMT4 More than 1 year ago
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.
sa21236 More than 1 year ago
I have read other books on this topic so it was a similar read. Helpful to grief to see the hope beyond death. I realize the courage it took to step out of our comfort zone to discuss these very personal experiences. I think we all have had them but perhaps not recognized them. I have recommended this book to friends.
thriftymommy08 More than 1 year ago
"To Heaven and Back" by Mary C. Neal is an absolutely fascinating book about life, death, and eternal life. Mary Neal wrote this book as a sort of autobiography of her amazing experience when she died in a tragic kayaking accident. After she technically died, she describes her interaction with angels and in Heaven before she is returned to her Earthly home. I thought that this book was written beautifully - Mary tells the honest story of her life, the accident, her experiences as her spirit left her body, and her life after she was sent back to her life. What I found most interesting was her descriptions of Heaven, and her memories of that experience. She describes the great hall she saw with such beauty and energy, and then she felt such great sadness at having to be returned to her body because her time on Earth was not yet over. I thought this book was interesting, and I really enjoyed it, from cover to cover. It is very well written, and I would recommend this to anyone - man, woman, student, Christian, non-Christian.. I believe that anyone could benefit from Mary's story. I would give this book a 5/5!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought the audio book last winter and we really enjoyed it. I study meditation and spirituality. This book was written more for the common folk who may go to church but don't practice spirituality. The Dr gives a lot of background about her life which is rather common and supports the extraordinary event that happened to her. I loaned it to someone and don't remember who. I want to loan it to my 85 yr old neighbor who is not religious but interested. So I may purchase a second copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. While not as desriptive of her actual Heavenly experience as i had hoped, (I love the details of the heaven part!) I still received much from this book. Hope, encouragment, and a stronger faith were some of the things i received. I'm sure she had her reasons for lack of detail. Still worth reading and i highly recommend you do! You will be blessed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are curious about life in general and our purpose here on earth this is a satisfying read. Mary Neal, faced with heartbreaking and life changing events shows character and spiritual strength most of us can only imagine. A very fast read that stays with you. Thought provoking.