Dr. Mary C. Neal Recalls Her Inspiring Near-Death Experience

In this series of videos, surgeon and bestselling author Dr. Mary C. Neal recounts in detail the near-death experience she went through in 1999 and how it has impacted her life in the years since.

Video 1: My Journey to Heaven and Back
Hello Guideposts and Mysterious Ways reader. I'm Dr. Mary Neal and I am a spine surgeon who happened to drown while kayaking and I had a near-death experience.

In 1999, my husband and I were kayaking in Chile in South America, and were kayaking a section of river that is well known for its waterfalls—and I don't mean Niagara Falls. I mean drops of 10 to 15 feet, which may still sound crazy to some people, but we had been kayaking for more than 20 years and this was well within our skill set and we were kayaking with professionals.

We came to one of the waterfalls and circumstances were such that I had to abort my plans and go over the main part of the waterfall. When I went over the top, I could see the bottom and I could see tremendous turbulence, tremendous problems. I rocketed down and my boat and I became pinned or stuck in the underwater features, and I and the boat were completely submerged under eight to ten feet of water, and there was no getting out. I tried everything I could to free the boat, to free me from the boat, and I very quickly realized that I was probably going to die.

At the moment that I asked God's will to be done, I was immediately enveloped in Christ's arms. I was held and comforted and reassured that everything would be fine, regardless of whether I lived or died. And I was taken through a bit of a life review and that was the first really profound experience for me because I had never really thought about death.

If I had thought about a near-death experience, I wouldn't have been able to imagine it. I would have even had any idea. But in this life review, we went through events in my life, and what I realized is that it had absolutely nothing to do with judgment; it had everything to do with God's unimaginable love and grace.

I was surprised to find that I didn't feel fear, I didn't feel panic, I had no sense of air hunger. And then my body was released from the kayak as my spirit broke free from my body and I rose up and out of the river, and I could still see my body, I could still see earth, I could hear my friends calling to me. But I was immediately greeted by a group of ... somethings. People, spirits, beings, I'm never quite sure what to call them. But I knew without doubt they'd been sent by God, they were of God. They were there to welcome me and greet me and love me, and I had absolutely no intention of coming back.

I had every reason in the world to come back. I have a wonderful husband, I had four little kids that I loved dearly, I had a great job, no issues, no nothing. Despite all of those reasons to come back, I had no intention of returning because I felt like I was absolutely home, where we all belong.

And then they took me along this beautiful path that spoke to me. The things that really move my soul are colors and flowers and the aromas of flowers, and that's what I saw. And so we went along this path to this great dome structure that I knew was the point of no return, and I could hardly wait. It's all I wanted to do. And I was there for what felt like many, many hours.

And then I was very disappointed to, as my kids would say, get kicked out, but what really happened was that the person who was sort of in charge of our little group turned to me and told me that it wasn't my time, that I had more work to do on earth and that I had to go back to my body.

And I did ask why, because I didn't need to return [chuckles], and they used that as an opportunity to begin to tell me about some of the things I still needed to do on earth. One of them had to do with the coming and unexpected death of my oldest son, and I was really given expectations of how I was going to respond to his death and how I was going to not only continue to reflect God's love during that time, but use that as a way to help bring people to an understanding of the beauty that comes not only out of life but out of death. And I was also given this mandate to share my experiences with other people.

Video 2: Dr. Mary C. Neal—What I Saw in Heaven
What I saw was truly beyond description. Everything seemed physical in that the people I saw did have head, arms, legs. They had these robes on that seemed to be woven together with fibers of love. And I know that doesn't really make sense, but that's what it was.

When I saw the colors, it's as though I understood them. I saw them, I could taste them, I could hear them. I understood their very essence.

And I realize none of this makes sense in our language, but that's what it was. We were communicating in a very pure sense; it was almost like a blast of energy. And I suppose that I would that I understood it in English, because that's my native tongue, and when I think about what I was told, I think about it in English. But at the same time, the communication was on a much more pure basis.

We traveled up with this path and the path seemed solid, in that it was directional and we were moving along it, but the edges just sort of faded into nothingness. And I would say the same thing below and above. Nothing existed except for us and except for where we were going.

I didn't ever feel any sense of gravity. I felt like I was a physical entity in that I was some structure or shape, but I didn't feel gravity, I didn't feel weight. 

When we came to the structure, it seemed like there were blocks or bricks, and again it seemed as though they were woven together with love. I never leaned against them so I don't know how solid they felt, and I will be the first to acknowledge that I don't know if that's how it always appears. I know that that's how it appeared to me, but it may be because that's what I would understand. 

I absolutely believe that God presents to each one of us the experience that we will understand, the experience that will speak to us and move us and make us feel loved, make us understand that God's grace is real. 

Video 3: Dr. Mary C. Neal—What Jesus Looked Like in Heaven
I have been asked many, many times what Jesus looked like. Did I see Jesus? What did He look like? And I will say yes, I was absolutely held by Jesus when I was underwater, and in one of my subsequent out-of-body experiences, I absolutely was having a conversation with Christ. And people have asked, "How did you know it?" or they've said, "Well, you just wanted it to be Jesus." And I will tell you, it was absolute. I didn't want anything; I didn't anticpate anything.

I had been, really, a cultural Christian. I certainly didn't deserve to be held by Christ; I didn't deserve to have a conversation with Christ. And that's the beauty, because none of us deserve it; none of us earn it. That's what the New Testament shows us. It's grace.

He didn't look like the pictures that I saw when I was growing up, and my description of Christ is not going to make sense in our language because absolutely my description would be that He looked like bottomless kindness and compassion, and I realize that that's not a physical description in our language, but that absolutely is what He looked like.

Video 4: Dr. Mary C. Neal—The Lessons I Learned in Heaven
So I've spent a number of years now thinking about my experiences and processing them and discussing them with people as I've been speaking and as I've been listening to their own stories and I have realized that there were a number of lessons that came out of my experiences, and that prompted me to share them in the current book that I wrote, Seven Lessons from Heaven. There are really more than seven, but I was able to whittle it down [chuckles] and combine some of them, but truly some of the most important ones have to do with the fact that God is love. God loves us more than we can ever imagine, and in that love has incredible grace for us, knows each one of us and has a plan for each one of us that is one of hope.

It's more beautiful than we can imagine and regardless of our circumstances, God takes those circumstances and creates great beauty. In addition to that, there's no question that I learned that God is real and present, working in our world. God's miracles are present if we look for them. Heaven is absolutely real and what I've discovered is, even if you forget about everything else—if all you do is accept that there really is life after death—it's a game-changer. It changes everything about today.

Because if you don't have to worry about tomorrow and hopefully if you accept God's grace for yesterday, then what I've discovered is you can live entirely today. That doesn't mean you don't plan for tomorrow and it doesn't mean tyou hurry it up, but what it means is that you can be fully present in every moment of each day.

Video 5: Dr. Mary C. Neal—The Revelation of My Son's Death
When I was sent back to my body and I was told about the coming death of my oldest son, I certainly asked the question "Why?" and I was immediately taken back to my life review and I was reminded, yet again, how I was shown time and time and time again that beauty comes of all things. In addition to that, I was reminded that God does have a plan for each one of us and for the world that is one of hope.

When my son was killed, I knew without any doubt that God was with him with he died. I'm pretty darned sure that he didn't feel pain. I'm pretty darned sure he didn't want to come back, either. I know that I'll see him again when my own time is done, and I also have an absolute trust that there was great beauty in his life, there is beauty that has come out of his death, and that his death was a part of God's plan for my son, for our family and, really, for the world as a whole.

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