A teenager died on Christmas day in Austin. He suffered a heart attack, the fourth of his short life. He had cheated death three times, he said.
Generally a heart attack victim, even a teenager, would garner little media attention — it's sad of course, tragic for his family and friends, especially since it happened Christmas day — but in this case, Ben Breedlove's death brought new attention to his significant and courageous life and to the idea that perhaps there is something more out there after we die.
No, Ben wasn't famous in any traditional way, he was a normal 18-year-old Westlake High School student who happened to have a life-threatening heart condition.
"I was proud of myself, of my entire life, everything I have done. It was the BEST feeling... I didn't want to leave that place. I wish I NEVER woke up."
The thing that brought attention to Ben's death — attention that now goes around the world from the Huffington Post to London's Daily Mail to Sydney, Australia's ninemsn.com — was the serious and honest two-part video he posted on YouTube just a week before he died.
He called the video "My Story." In it he uses flashcards to prepare his family and friends for his passing and describes why death no longer scares him. It's heart-breaking and inspiring.
Ben had technically died before. His third heart attack came Dec. 6th while he was at school. His heart stopped for three minutes before EMS managed to bring him back through CPR.
Ben describes in great detail what it's like to die.
"When people's bodies die, the brain still works for a short time," he says in the video. He describes how EMS worked to save his life. "I heard them say 'He's not breathing, his heart has stopped and he has no pulse.' I really thought to myself, 'This is it, I'm dying.'"
And then, Ben describes his "dream or vision" of a place he didn't want to leave.
"... while I was still unconscious, I was in this white room... I was wearing a really nice suit and so was my fav [sic] rapper, Kid Cudi." And then Ben smiles the big smile of someone you know is at peace with himself and his life.
"I couldn't stop smiling," he goes on, still smiling. "I was proud of myself, of my entire life, everything I have done. It was the BEST feeling... I didn't want to leave that place. I wish I NEVER woke up."
Ben ends his video with another inspiring message. "Do you believe in Angels or God?... I Do."
One week later, on Christmas day, Ben went back to that peaceful place — and stayed.
Now Ben's video, has become one of the highest trending stories online.
After hearing of Ben's post, rapper Kid Cudi posted a blog of his own.
"Iam [sic] so sad about Ben Breedlove. I watched the video he left for the world to see, and him seeing me in detail, in his vision really warmed my heart. I broke down, Iam to tears because I hate how life is so unfair. This has really touched my heart in a way I cant describe, this is why I do what I do. Why I write my life, and why I love you all so much. Life is really fucked up sometimes, but I know Ben is at Peace, and I hope he gets a chance to sit and talk with my Dad. We love you Ben. Forever. Thank you for loving me. To Ben’s family, you raised a real hero, he’s definately [sic] mine. You have my love." — Scott Mescudi
Ben kept a pretty prolific YouTube channel called "OurAdvice4You," on which he documented his too short life and offered advice for anyone who cared to watch. It's the stuff of an ordinary teenage kid in Austin, his life and loves, open for all to see.
His last message recorded Dec. 18th is an inspiring story of peace and hope, and a vision of heaven many want to be true.
Comments on the video from friends and strangers alike hold a common theme — hope:
I may not know you, nor do I necessarily believe in a god, but to you I have the deepest respect. I have believed for the longest time that when you die, you do indeed find eternal peace. Some may call it Heaven, but I believe it is simply you in your truest form. Your stories of previous deaths gave me hope Ben, to where now I have no reason to fear the reaper, but rather to embrace this pre-life state that I'm in now to prepare for the beginning. Rest in peace, and may all your loved ones realize that you are truly happy now."
"your story really touched my heart i hope you find peace in heaven. i don't know you but i cried when i read that article about you. You really are a strong person. Im on my pursuit of happiness in know you found yours. God Bless."
"Rest in peace. I don't believe in God myself, but in angels yes. And that when we die, we go into a happy place where everyone can be finally happy. I hope you're okay and happy in the place you are right now. R.I.P Ben, I wish I had known you, you're a true hero, and a fighter."
"Ben, you were the most BRAVEST [sic] guys out there. I believe that the angels have taken you away to a better place now, I bet your [sic] happy:) I'll NEVER forget you Ben Breedlove<3 R.I.P <3"
Ben Breedlove was a normal kid who lived a normal life — if having a life-threatening heart condition can be considered normal — and left an extraordinary legacy for us on Christmas day.