Now that the shock is subsiding regarding Paul Walker riding off into the afterlife sunset in a Porsche with Roger Rodas we can talk about, perhaps, just WHERE they went.
Sunday evening CNN’s Anderson Cooper ran a special report titled: To Heaven and Back. Journalist Randi Kaye spoke with a couple of people with some pretty remarkable life instances where their lives ended and they came back. All of the legends in the world couldn’t outshine the truth that they have experienced. We’ve all been told, once it’s over – it’s over, but Lazarus… well, why talk about the biblical stories of yesterday when we can check out what being said today about going To Heaven and Back:
“My name is Mary Neal and on January 14th, 1999 I died while kayaking on a South American river.
I live in Jacksonville, Wyoming. I am married. I have 4 children – they were all competitive cross-country skiers. I am an orthopedic spine surgeon and I was very busy. I finished my residency and was married with a full-time job with one child and had another one, another one, another one, (you know, they kept coming). And I think I was very, very typical, I had very little time for my spiritual life.
Randi: What was your relationship with God and spirituality?
Mary: I did take my own children to Sunday School and I tried to incorporate spirituality into my daily life but then I would run out of time.
Randi: Tell me about your husband Bill.
Dr. Mary Neal and her husband of almost 3 decades
Mary: My husband is also an orthopedic surgeon. He’s a very bright guy with a keen sense of humor. My husband and I have been married for 26 years. This was in January of 1999 and friends of ours are professional kayakers and during the winters they go to Chile to kayak, and so for my husbands birthday, I surprised him with this trip. We had planned to go to Chile for a week of kayaking.
Randi: And you were really looking forward to it?
Mary: It was wonderful. We spent a week enjoying the people and the food and our friends. What was going to be our last day of kayaking was January 14th. We had planned to kayak on a stretch of the river that’s well known for it’s water falls and drops of 10 to 15 feet. That morning actually, my husband woke up with terrible back pain and so he chose not to go on the river.
Randi: How did you feel that morning? What was on your mind?
Mary: When I first put on the river I didn’t quite feel right. I just said, ‘oh well, I guess I’m just nervous.’ As we started down the river I still felt this sense of unease things weren’t quite falling together. And then we came to the first big drop as I crested the top of the water fall I could look down and it just looked like this bottomless pit of churning water. I couldn’t see a clean out flow or clean exit. I hit the bottom of the water fall and the front end of the boat became pinned in the rocks and then the boat and I were completely submerged 8 or 10 feet of water. I started to do the things that would free me from the boat but the force of the current had my body actually pressed to the front deck of the boat.
Randi: Did you have any sense while this was happening of where your friends were, what they were trying to do, and did they know where you were?
Mary: Neither the boat nor I were visible from the surface and at that point and time they started their watch. Time is very important because it determines whether you are trying to rescue someone or whether you’re really just trying to recover the body.
Randi: They had a tough time reaching you.
Mary: Because they kept failing their sense of really panic kept raising.
Randi: Did you think you were going to die at that point?
Mary: Oh, I was sure I was going to die. I knew at the time I knew I had been under water for too long. I gave up trying to control the outcome. I really, gave it all over to God. And I really, really, sincerely said “Your will be done.” And the moment I gave up control I was immediately overcome with this very, very physical sensation of being held and comforted and reassured that everything was fine whether I lived or died. My husband and children would be fine but simultaneously the other part of my brain kept doing these self assessment exams thinking, “Wow. This is really, really strange. “
Randi: And were you still in the water when you were being held?
Mary: Yes. I was still very aware of my physical surroundings. I could still feel the boat, I could still feel the current. The father of this group – it became very clear to him that what they were going to do was not going to make a difference. They all said there was a time when everything shifted, one of them said, it was almost like a sonic boom – then this other rock became exposed and they were able to get closer to me.
Randi: A rock that hadn’t been there before?
Mary: No. When the rock opened up on one attempt they were able to shift the boat a little bit, so then the current started sucking my body out of the boat. As I came over the front deck of the boat my knees had to bend back on themselves and I could feel them breaking and I could feel the ligament and the tissue tearing. I felt my spirit peeling away from my body; sort of like peeling apart two pieces of tape and I felt my spirit break free and I rose up and out of the water and I was immediately greeted by this group of (I never know what to call them) people, spirit beings – these names mean different things to different people. They started taking me down this path that was so beautiful.
Randi: Did you have any sense of what was going on with your friends and were they still in that mode of complete panic and frustration?
Mary: They were still in that mode and they saw my red life jacket pop up downstream and one of the guys felt my body hit his leg, so he then was able to bend down and grab my wrist and pull me over to the shore. My body was purple and bloated and my pupils were fixed and dilated. They immediately started chest compressions and breathing. I watched them do it, but I didn’t physically feel them doing it.
Randi: As a doctor, you know how long the human body can sustain without oxygen.
Mary: By about 10 minutes it’s over. They would believe I was without oxygen for 30-minutes. By every other definition, yes – I was dead. I could see the sand on the river bank. I could see them pull my body to the shore. I could see them start CPR. I had no pulse and I wasn’t breathing. One fellow was yelling at me to come back…
Randi: You were unconscious, so how do you know this was happening?
Mary: I felt my body break free and I felt my spirit break free and I was greeted by these people or these spirits. I could be with them and be going down this incredible pathway and simultaneously be looking back at the river. When I saw my body, I will say that was the first time that I actually thought, ‘Well, I guess I – I am dead. I really did die.’
Randi: In the book you write about dancing with them, were you celebrating something?
Randi: What? What were you celebrating?
Mary: It was a great homecoming! And I was really surprised by the fact that I had no intention of going back.
Randi: You didn’t want to return?
Mary: No. And I had all the reasons to return. I had a great life. I had a great job, a great husband, my children are wonderful and I love them more than I could ever imagine loving something on earth, but the love that I felt for them in comparison to Gods love that was absolutely flowing through everything was just pale in comparison. And then at a certain point one of the people/spirits told me that it wasn’t my time and that I had more work to do on earth and that I had to go back to my body. Then they took me back down the path and literally I sat down in my body.
Randi: Your friends thought you were dead?
Mary: I woke up, I saw them, then I could hear yelling and their faces were interesting. Because it was a mixture I think of absolute shock and a sense of ‘Oh now – what do we do?’ We’re in the middle of nowhere. When they looked up two Chilean young men just appeared, they actually never said anything and no one ever said anything to them. They picked me up, put me on top of a kayak to use as means to carry me and then one guy helped pick up the boat and the other guy started chopping down a path though the bamboo. And when they emerged from the bamboo to the dirt road, there was an ambulance waiting there.
Randi: Not a common sighting in that area, I take it?
Mary: No, there are no ambulances.
Randi: You write in the book, it wasn’t just one miracle it was a constellation of miracles.
Mary: The fact is when you line up every single coincidence, you start to realize that you can’t write everything off as a coincidence. I was in the hospital for 5 or 6 weeks, I absolutely felt like I was neither here nor there. I then again felt myself back in heaven and God’s world. I was in this incredible field, again it was the same experience of intensity, but I was having this conversation with Jesus.
Randi: So if I’m hearing you correctly, you had a conversation with Jesus?
Randi: And what are you asking him?
Mary: We talked more about reasons that I have been sent back, it had to do with my husbands health. So when a couple of our friends died from unexpected causes I pushed my husband to have his heart checked. And it was on heart scan that ended up finding this lung lesion that was malignant.
Randi: How serious was it?
Mary: Had it not been found, he probably wouldn’t be here.
Randi: Well let’s talk about your son Willie. What do you remember the angel telling you about what would happen to Willie?
The angel predicted Mary’s son Willie Neal would die
Mary: I knew specifically with regard to my son that he was going to die and that there is beauty and purpose in his death and not just his life. We talked about how he had really fulfilled his job. He really had already done what he was meant to do. I told no on e until shortly before his 18th birthday. As his 18th birthday approached I really started feeling it wasn’t fair NOT to tell my husband. So I did tell him.
Randi: Did you live any differently regarding Willie?
Mary: I woke up everyday wondering if this would be the day. A year and a half later, he went out for a roller skate training session with a friend of his, they pulled up to this area that over looked this river valley and he made some comment to the effect of ‘Wouldn’t this be an incredible last sight if you never could see anything else?’, and then :30 seconds later he was hit by a car and instantly killed. [Entering the late teens bedroom] Well this is Willie’s room.
Randi: You still have it, pretty much decorated; it’s all of his things…
Mary: well, it’s very difficult for me to come in and look at all of those things that really represented him as a person, as a– you know as my son. Because, you know the sadness never goes away.
Randi: Your story is incredible. Do you ever look at it and be your own greatest skeptic?
Mary: I am my own greatest skeptic. And I’m quite sure that I would not believe most of my lifes story had I not personally lived each and every day of it it. But I absolutely believe that every person can look at their life and see the hand of God retrospectively. Now being pulled out of the river and resuscitated is dramatic, but most miracles are very quiet.
That person that calls you just at the moment that you needed it or that person that shows up and directs you to something you never would have imagined.
Randi: Do you look back on your accident as something tragic?
Mary: I look back on this accident as the single greatest gift that I could ever, every imagine receiving. I would never change a moment of it. ”
Life is good. No – life is great!
I can deal with the meal that’s put on my plate.
I can deal just knowing this isn’t the end game.
I can deal with all things, by calling on Jesus’ name.
The details of this story may sound a bit insane,
though I’m confident at your death, you’ll see a similar same.
To live in fear of death won’t work.
You have to live this life for all that it’s worth.
Take chances, take risks – They are yours for the win.
Encourage yourself and others, be they stranger, foe or friend.
Do things in this world that are on a purposeful track,
I hope you’ve enjoyed installment 1 of 3: To Heaven and Back