As Dr. Mary Neal crested the falls in Chile, her jaw dropped as she beheld the volume and turbulence of the water at the base of the cascade. A 15-foot drop is not difficult for an experienced kayaker like herself, but as she plunged into the deep, the front of her kayak got stuck in the rocks, holding her underneath.
“I and my boat were immediately and completely submerged,” she recounts on a 700 Club video on YouTube. “I was absolutely pressed to the front deck of the boat. I couldn’t move my arms to reach my spray skirt let alone push myself out.”
Dr. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon who lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, had a near-death drowning experience, and visited Heaven that day in 1999. She returned to convey her remarkable encounter with angelic beings.
The ordeal-turned-testimony started when Dr. Mary decided to treat her husband to a birthday kayaking trip in a remote part of Chile. On the fateful day, her husband, who had strained his back, sat out from the most treacherous part of the river.
When Mary hit the main falls, she knew what she was doing. But as she observed the roiling water at the bottom, anxiety struck.
Instead of popping up out of the tumbling tons of water as kayakers do, the front of her boat got pinned in the rocks underwater as the falls pounded her back and forced her to double over the front deck.
Kayakers in jeopardy have methods for saving themselves, but the force of the water on her back thwarted them. She was helplessly pinned underwater in a pinched position that she, as an orthopedic surgeon, knew had probably broken her tibia (shin bone).
“I very sincerely asked that God’s will be done,” she remembers. “I didn’t say, Oh God, please come and save me. At the moment I prayed that, I was overcome by a very physical sensation of being held and comforted and reassured.”
She felt an inexplicable peace about her husband and four young children. She was a Christian and knew that if she died, she would go to Heaven.
“I believe that Christ was holding me when I was still on the boat,” she says.
Above the surface, group leaders realized Mary’s predicament but were also thwarted in their attempts to intervene by the overpowering water.
As the minutes prolonged during their fruitless rescue attempts, the grim reality dawned on them: their work was becoming a body recovery operation instead of a rescue.
Being continually thrust over the front deck of her kayak by the unrelenting crush of the pounding waterfall, Mary realized that the force on her knees meant her tibia was broken.
“But I wasn’t screaming. I didn’t have pain,” she says. “I didn’t have fear. I didn’t have that sense of air hunger.”
“Yet I felt more alive than I ever felt,” she says.
Then an amazing thing happened. Mary felt her spirit leave her body!
“I rose up and out of the river,” she recalls.
As she was rising, she glanced downward and saw her body and her boat. Then she looked upwards and saw angelic beings.
“They were absolutely overjoyed to see me and greet me,” Mary says. “They had known me and loved me as long as I had existed. They had been sent by God.”
She was guided down an “exceptionally beautiful path towards a great dome structure of sorts that was exploding with beauty and color,” she explains. “It was absolutely exploding with love beyond anything I could ever describe.
“I could hardly wait. I was absolutely overwhelmed the sensation of being home, that I belonged.”
But the rapturous joy was interrupted by a measure of disappointment. “The spirits who had taken me there told me that it wasn’t my time, and I had more work to do on earth,” she explains. “I had to go back to my body.”
So she plummeted downward towards the river. She watched as rescuers pulled her body to the shore and began to administer CPR.
Then she was in her body spitting up water. Her drowning lasted between 15 and 25 minutes, according to her and the rescuers.
Mary was flown to the United States to make an arduous recovery from her injuries. Her story is told in the book To Heaven and Back.
“God really loves us,” Mary says. “That love is everything. If we could truly accept that, it changes everything. It changes the way you view every moment of every day. The fact that there is life after death changes the way you approach every moment.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
About the writer of this article: Milo Haskour studies at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.