To Heaven and Back

To Heaven and Back by M.D. Mary C. Neal

Book: To Heaven and Back by M.D. Mary C. Neal Read Free Book Online
Authors: M.D. Mary C. Neal
sorry to say goodbye when I became strong enough and mobile enough to finally care for myself. He has since left our town and become a physician’s assistant. I have not heard from him in many years, but I recall him fondly and will always cherish the kindness he showed to me.
    My youngest son, Peter, was only 1 ½ years old when I had my kayaking accident. He had beenthe most hesitant to be near me while I was in the hospital, but he never left my side once I returned home. For many months, his love, constancy, comfort, and a shared knowledge of God’s presence kept me linked to him and, through him, to this world. Given his very young age, I believe he still remembered God’s world, which seemed to give him an understanding of the spiritual aspect of my experience and what I was going through. My older children were great sources of joy, reassurance, and inspiration, and Kasandra, our wonderful nanny, provided a great sense of stability to all of us.
    Although I was physically present in our home, I was emotionally absent. I was quite absorbed into my own world of physical recovery and emotional turmoil as I tried to process all that had happened to me. It took me more than a year to finally accept that not only had I been sent back to earth, but that I had work left to do. I was part of a family that I dearly loved, and I finally accepted that I better get on with my life and make the most of it. During this time, Bill was the glue that held our lives together. He worked full-time in his own orthopaedic practice, maintained my orthopaedic practice, cared for our children, changed Peter’s diapers, made sure everyone was fed, administered my shots, and organized my medical treatment, all while trying to process his own feelings of helplessness and grief about what had happened. Despite being emotionally and physically drained, he was exceptional.
    The community in which we live was also so supportive of our family that it can make me cry even now to think about it. Someone from our church or elsewhere in our community brought food to our house every night for many months. Occasionally, people would spend their weekend “holding down our fort” so that Bill could go skiing or do something else for himself. We had not lived in our community for very long before my accident so didn’t even know most of these people, and many of them did not know us. But they embraced our need nonetheless and their kindness to us was a tremendous blessing.

    Betsy, Peter, Willie, and Eliot just before our move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

    Years later, my oldest son, Willie, on his way to climb the Grand Teton.

    Bill and I relaxing in the Chilean sun before driving to the river.

    Bill and I are at the put-in for my run down the upper section of the Fuy. I am wearing his bright red paddling jacket.

    Looking down on a section of the Fuy River. This beautiful river is made inaccessible by it rocky banks and steep, thickly forested hillsides.

    I was pinned beneath the turbulence at the bottom of the drop to this kayaker’s left.

    Once I was medically stable, Willie, Betsy, Peter, Eliot, and I snuggled and watched movies from my hospital bed.

    Walking was definitely a challenge, but it was a joy to be upright and somewhat mobile after being in a wheelchair for so long.

    I, Peter, Willie, Bill, Betsy, and Eliot. This Easter 2004 family vacation changed the course of our lives.

    October 2010; Betsy, Mary, Peter, Eliot and Bill on our first trip without Willie.

    I love the water and still enjoy kayaking whenever possible.

    I continue to find satisfaction as a surgeon, although I now try to integrate the spiritual component of healing.

    Willie posts his first “No Idling” sign in Jackson Hole. Since then, his message of making a difference has continued to inspire people, a growing number of Idle-reduction campaigns have been championed, and signs have been posted in at least thirty cities.

    “I have fought the good

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