She Died and Came Back and tells her Story
Mary Neal is a Christian and a physician, married with grown children, and she has quite a story to tell. Her story begins on a January morning in 1999. She and her husband, Bill had been vacationing in Chili and they had planned to paddle kayaks down the Fuy River that day. The Fuy River was known for its many waterfalls, but Mary and Bill were experienced kayakers. They would be paddling with a professional raft and kayak guide, who was experienced in leading trips on rivers in Chili, along with several other adventurers.
At the last moment Mary’s husband Bill became ill and couldn’t make the trip but insisted that Mary go without him. So, Mary reluctantly joined the group at the river, not knowing that disaster was just around the corner. As the group pushed off, Mary paddled her kayak into the swiftly moving waters.
Ahead were two waterfalls. Powerful currents of water were pulling her toward the larger waterfall and as her kayak was thrust over the waterfall’s edge she saw a lot of turbulence below. She rapidly dropped into the turbulence plunging deep below the water’s surface. Her kayak jolted to a stop with the front end being jammed between rocks underwater. And Mary was stuck under water too. She tried desperately to free herself from the boat, but the sheer weight of the water and the force of the current kept her pinned underwater. She struggled desperately, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t break free. Finally, Mary began to realize that she was drowning.
Oddly Mary tells us that she experienced no panic or fear. A peace settled in over her and she prayed to God, “Your will be done.” And then she writes: “I felt the physical sensation of being held and comforted by Jesus. I felt His embrace as tangibly as I could feel the plastic of the boat around my legs and the weight of the water pressing on my torso.” Jesus assured her that everything would be “fine” and she felt that Jesus was pouring His boundless love, kindness, compassion, and mercy into her very soul while she was drowning.
She writes that time seemed to stop and that she felt connected to everything. She speaks of Jesus lovingly showing her the story of her life and reminding her of the great beauty that comes of the events in her life. She writes: “I could feel the powerful currents pulling my body out and over the front deck of my boat. Eventually the current ripped my helmet from my head and my life jacket from my body. My knees were forced to bend forward, breaking bones and tearing ligaments in the process, yet I felt no pain. “
“As my body was leaving my boat, I could also feel something else happening – Jesus was releasing me, and my spirit was slowly separating from my body. Suddenly, I felt my spirit release with a small pop. The separation felt painless, gentle, and beautiful … and I felt more alive than I had ever felt. “ “ I was not afraid. With God’s perfect love so profoundly present, fear had no room to exist. As I hovered above the river, I was welcomed by a group of “somethings.” She didn’t know whether these “somethings” were angels, or people or who they were. “All I can say is that I had absolute knowledge that these beings had known me and loved me as long as I had existed, and that I had known and loved them also. “
She describes the group of “somethings” as: “They were radiant, brilliant and overflowing with God’s love. In that moment, I knew that they had been sent by God to comfort, guide, and protect me. In their presence I felt completely and unconditionally loved by God in a way that is elusive if not impossible on Earth. I was filled with an inexpressible peace and joy that made life on Earth seem pale and unappealing by comparison. I felt like I had finally returned home.”
She continues: “I found myself reveling in my new existence but still watching what was happening on the river below. …The past, present and future all seemed to merge into one reality. I seemed to be in a different special dimension as well. But all the while was able to look down on the scene at the river. By now, my body had been under the water for almost thirty minutes.”
Soon Mary could see members of her kayaking group huddled around her lifeless body giving her CPR and begging her to take a breath. At that same time, she was walking with her group towards a great shinning domelike structure, with arches that seemed to be constructed of blocks woven together with fibers of God’s love. Like everything else, the structure was brilliant and radiant. Beyond the arch she could see inside and there was a great deal of activity and many radiant souls bustling about. She wondered if this was the New Jerusalem spoken about in Scripture.
Mary was not allowed to pass through the arch at the domelike structure. She was gently told by her welcoming group that it was not yet her time to leave the Earth. That she had more work to do on Earth before she entered in and that she could go no further. Going through the arch into the city seemed to be the point of no return she thought. Mary surprised the group of fellow kayakers on Earth gathered around here lifeless body on the river bank by breathing a breath on her own and opening her eyes. Mary was back, and the experience changed her life.
Many people have claimed to have had near death experiences and brushes with eternity. Many people who have had a near death or after death story have a story similar to Mary’s story. However, a few people who had a near-death experience thought that they saw hell.
Almost all the people who have had a near death experience felt the overwhelming love and peace of God surrounding them. They all described a beauty and glory that they had no words for and nearly all seemed to see their life review and understand why circumstances in their lives happened the way they did. And how God was weaving it altogether for good for them. Many were met or waved at by loved ones who had gone before. And nearly all reached a place of no return where they were told they had more work to do and were sent back to Earth.
Are these near-death stories true? There are several accounts in the Bible where people came back to life (1 Kings 17:17-21, Luke 7:12-15) John 11:1-44, Acts 9:36-41, Acts 20:9-10) And St. Paul wrote a report of his near- death experience. St. Paul writes: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not knows…God knows…He was caught up in paradise and heard inexpressible things.” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) It seems that Paul was limited in describing this experience because there aren’t words in our human vocabulary to describe heaven.
Mary says she has learned that circumstances make sense when seen through heaven’s lens. And that we receive abundant grace from God who loves us more than we can ever know. She has learned not to fear death since it is not the end. It is a threshold where we leave our physical bodies behind and walk whole into eternity. And she has learned to choose forgiveness so that she can live fully and joyfully in God’s extravagant love. Reading her story and those of others has helped me not to fear my own death as much and I hope it will do the same for you.
Most of the ideas from this blog were taken from Mary Neal’s book, “7 Lessons From Heaven”