What I Learned When I Died (Author Interview)

What I Learned When I Died looks like a unique book.  Can you tell us a little about what it’s about?

Well, thank you for asking. I’ve written/co-authored nine other books, and they’ve all been really special to me, particularly Letters to Ethan, which is a series of letters I wrote to my grandson after he was born.

But the creation of What I Learned When I Died: Life Lessons From Heaven actually began when I was born, and then died shortly thereafter. Because of my death, I was immediately baptized as a Catholic and, with no heartbeat for an extended period of time, was pronounced dead by the delivery room doctor. It was in those moments between life and death and then coming to life again that I experienced the presence, the peace, and the love of God in the most beautiful of all places, Heaven.

The shocking experience of almost losing their first-born son emotionally froze my parents to the point that they never discussed it with me until my mother shared the story during my teenage years. The more I thought about it after our tearfully joyful discussion, I began to discern even more clearly some of the things I had been thinking, feeling, and experiencing as I grew up.

And so, from those teenage years until I wrote the book, I’ve spent countless hours reflecting upon the time I spent in God’s arms and the lessons I now know He wanted me to learn and to share. And those ten lessons are the subject of What I Learned When I Died.

How long did it take you to write What I Learned When I Died?

Honestly, it took my entire life to write the book in my head and in my heart. When I had it all figured out, I just sat down and typed it in about two weeks. Trust me. I asked God a lot of questions along the way. I just didn’t want to sit down and write about an event. I wanted to share a deeply personal story that was practical, meaningful, and something that would offer hope to those that read it, as well as some practical advice on how to experience and enjoy a little bit of heaven on earth, despite the myriad of disappointments and challenges we all face along the way.

What inspired you when writing What I Learned When I Died?   

Not long ago I served as a hospice chaplain here in Florida. When I became a part of a patient’s death journey, for example, many of them would feel guilty that they had not “been to church” for a long time and, in some cases, decades. In spite of that, the life stories they shared with me were replete with examples, often heroic examples, of  living a Christian life. One young hospice patient, twenty-eight-year-old Shannon, convinced me that sharing what I had experienced when I was born would help others to see and to feel God’s presence not only in a church, but in many other places as well. Shannon was homeless, lived in the woods, but walked to a mission once a week to help a local minister distribute food and clothes to the poor. She died on our hospice service with no family except our doctors, nurses, and care staff. Serving Shannon’s spiritual needs during her final days with us at hospice inspired me to share my story with others.

Did anything stick out as particularly challenging when writing What I Learned When I Died?

Nothing that I would describe as challenging really. As I mentioned, I remember my mother finally sharing my “death experience’ with me when I became a teenager and thinking, I better not tell any of my friends that I died when I was born and went to Heaven for a short time, or they’ll think I’m weird.

In addition, I think a “story” is empty and meaningless if there isn’t a moral to the story. So if there was a challenge in writing the book, it was to attribute real-life principles to my experience that others would be able to use as they evaluated their own life direction and path. And to accomplish that, I relied upon certain scriptural passages and quotes, contained in each chapter of my book, that have defined a code of conduct for my own journey here on earth.

What do you like to do when not writing?

When I’m not writing I have a pretty busy schedule! I’m a chaplain, podcast host, and also an elected Fire Commissioner here in Palm Harbor, Florida, for the East Lake Tarpon Special Fire Control District. In addition, I travel and present interactive learning programs for churches and schools. Two of my favorite programs are Teach Your Children Well, (a program for parents) and Faith, Family, and Miracles, a program designed to improve family relationships. Most importantly, when I’m not writing, I cherish the time I spend with my family and friends, and I’m a huge Tampa Bay Lightning hockey fan!

Where can readers find out more about your work?

Readers can find out more about my work by visiting our podcast’s website at: www.tommcqueen.us. My show, “Wisdom for a Crazy World” is heard on Apple iTunes and nine other networks while being broadcast around the world. There’s a Gallery link on the website which goes directly to my Amazon Author’s page. And on my Amazon Author’s page, there are several videos and all of my other books are listed there as well.

For readers interested in the work of our non-profit foundation, I would encourage them to visit our webpage and read about our ministry at: www.americanfamilyfoundationinc.com.

Book trailer link: https://youtu.be/yDAjat0siLc

podcast link: www.tommcqueen.us