How is your experience compared to others who've gone to heaven and come back to physical life?

I have not read many accounts of other people's experiences, but I have had many patients over the years tell me about their own near-death experiences. It seems that most stories, mine included, contain some consistent elements -- that of an overwhelming sense of God's love and forgiveness, intense peace and beauty and no desire to return to Earth. Everyone recalls the details with precision and each person is profoundly affected by the experience. In these ways, my experience is quite similar.

What do you want people to know about heaven?

God's unconditional love for each of us is intense, complete, and is reflected in all of Heaven. Before we return to Heaven, our real home, we have an incredible opportunity on Earth to face challenges that will help us learn, grow and to become more Christ-like in the fruits of our spirit. Our time is so short that we need to be about God's business every day.

Visit the Patheos Book Club for more conversation on To Heaven and Back.

Mary C. Neal, M.D. is an orthopaedic surgeon. She studied at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, completed her orthopaedic residency at the University of Southern California and is fellowship trained as a spinal surgeon. She is the former Director of Spine Surgery at the University of Southern California and is a founding partner of Orthopedic Associates of Jackson Hole. Her after-life experience has been featured on national media including WGN, Dr. Oz, and Fox and Friends. She has served as a church elder, on several non-profit organization boards, and created the Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Fund. Dr. Neal lives with her family in Jackson Hole, WY.