Thursday, January 28, 2016

"To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels and Life Again (A True Story)" by Mary C. Neal, MD

  Several years ago an acquaintance of mine, that I have a lot of respect for, recommended this book to me.  The book had really spoken to her and captivated her by the fact that here was a DOCTOR... a real M.D. with a background in science and had every reason to be skeptical... who was talking about her experience of momentary death and visiting heaven.  For my friend, this helped confirm her belief in heaven and in God, and she wanted to share that with others.  I totally get that.
  I on the other hand was pretty skeptical.  So skeptical in fact that it's been over three years since my friend made the recommendation and it's taken me until now to crack the pages of this book.  I can't deny it's an interesting story.  Is it hard to believe visits to heaven and post-visit conversations with angels and/or Jesus himself?  Yes.  But who am I to say it can't/didn't happen.  What do I know.  Plus there are so many things in the story that seem like divine intervention (especially during the author's accident in Chile when she drowned and died... which is the focal point of the book).  It's hard not to see the hand of God or at least acknowledge the miracle of it all.
  The author talks a lot about how we can view much of life as coincidence or miracles, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson in saying that people only see what they are prepared to see. While I agree that we can choose how we view things, and as Albert Einstein said live as if nothing is a miracle or that everything is, as I read this account of near death, I tended to see both.
  I believe God divinely intervenes in our lives sometimes.  The author  shares multiple stories in this book of what seems to be His intervention in her life.  She talks about the time she and a group were stuck in mud and stranded on a deserted road in Mexico and out of the blue rescue showed up after they prayed.  She talks about a scuba diving incident where she and another man should have in many ways died, but seemingly were directed to safety by fish after turning it to God.  Then of course how when she was dying on the banks of the rapids of  a river in Chile, random strangers came to carry her out through a forest to the exact road a ambulance and her husband all happen to meet up on.  Things like that can't be explained and with a lack of explanation I tend to believe it was God.
  Yet, from my own personal experiences and stories of other peoples lives, I also know that sometimes God chooses not to intervene... case in point in this book, when the authors son was killed.  So it was in some instances hard for me to really breathe into what the author was saying about everything being God directed. On top of that, while she has been in the medical world for majority of her life, much more of her life seemed to have been bundled under the tapestry of religion and faith.  While there is nothing wrong with that and it doesn't change the details of the stories she shares, it does give her a different perspective on it all, one that I makes me wonder if it would produce the same outcome from someone who hadn't grown up under the cloak of some kind of faith.  I guess what I am trying to say is I  think I would have been more captivated by the "heaven" moments, had these things happened to someone with no understanding, no-background, no prior-propensity to believe in it.  But that's really more my issue than anything having to do with the book.
  The author states herself in the Q&A section at the back of the book that many of the things that she shares she probably would not have believed herself if they had not happened to her and that she wrote the story not for fame or for notoriety, but rather just to share her experience, which is what she feels God has called her to do...and that I think is what keeps me from tossing out this book with the many other "heaven is for real" stories that have come out (not to say that I don't believe in heaven, because as skeptical as I come across, I do).  I genuinely believe that the author isn't trying to sell anyone faith or trying to convince people of heaven.... although those things could happen... I think she's just trying to be faithful to God.  For that I would recommend this book.

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