Featured in the Chester County Press and on my recent book review of Kendall Keeler’s debut I was blessed to have a conversation with the author himself. Kendall agreed to sit down with all of us here on Crutchprints in the Sand and talk a little more about the first book in his Legacy Journal Series, Your Last 24 and the unique message it carries. Kendall has generously offered his book as a free download when signing up for his mailing list. You can find this here: kendallkeeler.com. Trust me, even if you read the electronic version like I did, you will want a paperback in your hands for quick reference! More on this later.
Nothing quite rearranges your priorities like the possibility of death. Amputees and cancer survivors are just two groups of people that have been forced by life’s circumstances to face the possibility and reality of death. We have pondered its meaning, our existence, and answered hard questions in search of peace. If we are fortunate to survive we often walk away from death and all its reminders – hoping to escape its grip and pain forever. This book blew my existing resolutions out of the water and allowed me to take another look at mortality without the baggage of pain I thought I would carry. I hope through this interview and your subsequent reading of this book that you will find the message also enriches your life and relationships.
Crutchprints: What made you pick this topic and does this mean?
My experience at age 25, when the death of a close friend shocked me into asking myself the question, “What if today was my last 24 hours?” Over the years I’ve discovered the benefits of courageously facing my own inevitable death. I believe that others will benefit if they do the same.
First, it’s important for me to talk about the value of questions. In my book, I explain this in more detail, but the concise version is this: the person who is the voice in your head, asking you the questions that you are attempting to answer in the way you live your life, is the person who is ultimately controlling your motivations, your actions, and ultimately controlling your life. In Your Last 24: Preparing for the Inevitable, I invite my readers to develop a personally scripted Last 24 question. By this I mean, if you want to take control of your own destiny, you need to control the questions in your mind. Developing a Last 24 question is an important step toward preparing yourself for your last 24 hours, whenever they might come.
Crutchprints: Are last 24 hours questions just a matter of what a person finds valuable?
A Last 24 question is not just about recognizing what a person values, it is about consciously creating a sense of urgency for living those values. We often have wonderful intentions but instead of doing the difficult work of living our values, we procrastinate. The Last 24 question is intended to create an internal alert to daily live our values and ultimately to minimize end-of-life regrets.
Crutchprints: A lot of us here on Crutchprints are disabled people that have faced death, support persons, and people who are chronically ill. What would you hope that we take away from this book?
The intention of this book is not an attempt to comfort those who are currently facing death, these people are already thinking about death – probably daily. Other authors have already written excellent books to provide comfort for the grieving. This book is intended to be an alarm for those who are thinking and acting like they don’t need to think about their own death. It is an opportunity to courageously and deliberately walk into the dark valley of the shadow of death, then attempt to turn on the lights. I hope that some in the Crutchprints audience will have the courage to join me on this journey.
Crutchprints: In Hour 6 you state, “Truth be told, most people who are asking why questions are not really looking for answers to their spoken questions. They are usually asking a core unspoken question behind the spoken questions. Typically, this core question is a question of trust.” How does trust impact an outlook on death?
When we experience the tragedy of death the most natural response is to ask “Why?” That question is, for most people, directed at God. If the person asking the question believes God to be worthy of trust, then that person is more likely to have hope and is more capable of looking beyond the tragedy of death. Trusting God allows a person to believe there is something good on the other side of their pain.
Crutchprints: You discuss the gift of pain in the first few chapters. Yet we live in a culture and society where remaining free of pain and suffering is often associated with success or moral achievement.
Let me clarify that I am not proposing that pain should be some kind of goal or achievement in itself. Freedom from pain and suffering is something we all desire and should desire. But the path to pain-free living is discovered through the valley of pain. Freedom from suffering is on the other side of the suffering we are experiencing. In my book, I illustrate this principle through the analogy of a physical injury. The only way to experience healing from that wound’s pain is by pushing through the extreme pain of surgery or stitching or cleaning.
Crutchprints: I love how in Hour 9 you address the forbidden fruit and the one argument I’ve heard frequently, “God made a mistake when he gave humans free will.” Is free will a bad thing?
That is an interesting statement “God made a mistake when he gave humans free will”, because I think the person making that statement is probably not referring to their own free will, but rather to the free will of others – especially people who do hurtful things. That person has probably experienced pain through the foolish free will choices of another. But as I mention in Your Last 24: Preparing for the Inevitable most people are inconsistent in their views of justice. We want God to punish others for their wrong choices, but we resist God when he disciplines us. I have yet to meet a person who truly wants to be a robot – without any freedom of personal choice. But I meet people all the time who want others to be robots. We can’t have it both ways.
Crutchprints: A journal prompt in Hour 11 says, “What is dangerous about viewing death as an enemy?”. How would you answer that?
When I view death as my enemy it causes me to believe that death needs to be conquered rather than accepted. Since the very beginning of God’s relationship with his people, substitutionary sacrifice (death), has been an essential element of worship: God’s invitation for Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Israel’s annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb, Jesus laying down his life for us, etc. But there is also an irony introduced in scripture. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:26 calls death an enemy that will some day be destroyed by Jesus. There will be a day when death is no longer necessary. But in our current circumstances, until Jesus ultimately ends this reign of death (Revelation 20:14), death is necessary. Jesus’ physical death was required to conquer our spiritual death. Our physical death is necessary to enter the place where we will experience eternal life. As the pilgrim Christian discovered in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress “You must go through, or you cannot come at the gate (of the Celestial City)”.
Crutchprints: This book is your debut, but we are informed there is a sequel coming up!
The second book in this Legacy Journal Series is titled Remember Me: Living a Life that Lasts. That book will consider the human longing to be remembered and provide eternal principles for ensuring that we can live a life that will last…forever.
Crutchprints: If I am correct, your wife Barbra was key in the development of this book.
I did 98% of the writing, but Barbra was my first and primary editor. She loves words and grammar. She is one of the few people I know who enjoy diagramming sentences! She also reflected back to me how the material was communicating. She helped me discover areas in the manuscript when my communication wasn’t clear. In addition, I also had several friends who gave helpful feedback throughout the process of my writing and editing.
Most of the material in this book represents topics that Barbra and I have discussed for the past 25 years, so nothing in this book was a surprise to her. Additionally, I have made the personal commitment that I want to be living a principle before I attempt to encourage someone else to apply that principle to their own life. Personally, I’ve been asking my Last 24 question for over 20 years.
Crutchprints: You ask a lot of “what if” questions in this book that you seem to already have the answers for. Why take this approach?
The key word in your question is “seem”…that I “seem to already have the answers”. I took this approach because I want to approach these subjects as a learner and invite my readers to also be approaching the topics as learners. I am still on a journey of discovery. I believe in absolute truth, but I learned a long time ago that my human weaknesses can blur my perception of absolute truth. I don’t want to communicate as if I have all the answers, but rather invite the reader to walk through this journey along with me. Let’s discover truth together.
A special thanks to Kendall Keeler for taking the time to sit with us at Crutchprints! To hear more from Kendall you can view these links to his blog and social media, or an article in Chester County Press. To purchase a copy of Kendall’s book Your Last 24, click here.