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

Mary C. Neal M.D.
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Book Description

May 29 2012
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: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story + Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife + Heaven Is For Real
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About 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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


“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 tha...

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The afterlife Jan. 22 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was interesting to say the least.

Her meeting with Jesus after a horrible boating accident made me feel so happy for this person.
She explains with all details what happened during her 15 minutes being pronounced dead.
Great story, or should I say facts, she found hope in our God when devastated with the death
of her son.

This book will enlighten all Christians and I do recommend the read.
Non believers should stay away for they will lose interest.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing July 21 2012
Very disappointing. I have read countless books on this subject and although this story is interesting and well written, it delivers nothing of interest to the reader. The author does not elaborate or describe her experience in heaven or with the beings of light that she encountered, which one would expect by reading the title, except to share her belief that God does exist.But if you need to be reassured on the subject of the existence of God, then this book is for you.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Heaven and back Aug. 10 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I expected more detail about her near death experience. There is next to none. This book is easy to read, has lots of suitable bible verses integrated and is soothing. I bought this book because I am dealing with the loss of a loved one- and this book did not really explain anything about the after-life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating personal account Jan. 14 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
i was totally captivated by this book.
It gives hope. Well written.
Bought copies for friends and they couldn't put it down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It gave me hope. Aug. 25 2014
By Amber
Written in a very easy, friendly, familiar and personal manner. Reads a bit like a novel. Leading us slowly in a few chapters to the event that changed her life. Gives us her upbringing background, her faith system and eventually after the event how her life went on, on a day to day basis with her different outlook on life. It gives hope that God...a Mighty force is out there controlling, overseeing our lives, mission here on earth and in the's all for our good. I think it was worth reading and lessened my fear of the passage of death and what's on the other side (even though I am a Christian. Fear itself, fear of the unknown is a natural built in mechanism in all of us). My only qualm about it, is that she waited way too long to write her book and recount the details of her heavenly experience...which as a result, she might of lost some valuable information that she could have share with us. But then again, maybe "it was meant" to be this way. Still a good book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven and Back Aug. 15 2012
I read this book after seeing a random interview on the internet. Normally, I am quite skeptical about these types of stories, but the author's story seemed very genuine. Her descriptions of her life events were very uplifting and I think it is a must read for anyone who is looking for something to strengthen their faith or if they are open to something that is not normally something they would read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Feb. 11 2013
By Mary-Lou Bird TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book very quickly because I couldn't put it down. I was so drawn in by Mary Neal's amazing story, at times I was dumbfounded by what she went through and lived to tell about it. An excellent book to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Heaven and Back Dec 29 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amazing story, believable but not well written.........too much repetition. It is not written for sceptics but it might convince some.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great Book and Excellent Service
Published 2 months ago by Helen Moores
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting.
Published 3 months ago by S. Benedetti
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Story wit faith at the center
This is one of the best stories that Inhave read. I have read stories about other people's encounter with heaven, but this one is especially compelling since it was written by a... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ronald Truant
5.0 out of 5 stars Credible
This book really plumbs into the depths of everything about our mortal existence and the ultimate move from this sphere into the eternal. Thought-provoking and compelling.
Published 4 months ago by Leda
5.0 out of 5 stars ToHeaven and back
I enjoyed it, but I thought the book would have more pages, it seems a lot was left out... The reason I say that is I hear her talk on t.v. and noneof the stull was in the book.
Published 7 months ago by Loretta Zanier
4.0 out of 5 stars To Heaven & Back
I enjoyed reading the book and several others that I gave it to also enjoyed it. Very controversial, but makes one think.
Published 7 months ago by Maggie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
A very interesting life story. Her Heaven experience is of particular interest. A very good read given her medical training..
Published 8 months ago by Doug Groves
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
I loved this book. It was truly inspirational. I was touched by her devotion to God and to her family. These are true values hard to find in today's world.
Published 9 months ago by Roxanne
4.0 out of 5 stars To Heaven and Back - A good quick read
This book was a quick read and I finished it within two evenings. I did enjoy it and feel it could give comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Betty
5.0 out of 5 stars To Heaven and Back
Sometimes a book transports you to a place, both geographically and emotionally, where you are able to enjoy the account just as if you were there. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Roland Laing
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