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An inspirational and heartrending memoir about Ben Breedlove, whose videos about his near-death experiences and visions of heaven went viral in 2012, written by his sister, Ally Breedlove.
On Christmas Day 2011, Ben Breedlove’s soul went to heaven. But it wasn’t his first time there. Ben suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart condition that posed a constant risk of sudden death. His condition, a thickening of the heart muscle, worsened over time, leaving him weak and fatigued. It also led Ben to some close calls medically, in particular cardiac arrest on four separate occasions, during which he felt the presence of angels and experienced the perfect peace of heaven.
Precocious and warm, Ben was close with his family and two siblings, and forged deep relationships with his friends. He loved to wakeboard and wakesurf, and he had dreams of visiting foreign countries around the world. He created the YouTube channels TotalRandomness512 and BreedloveTV, and cocreated the channel OurAdvice4You, where he posted videos about everything from dating advice for girls to more serious topics like his spirituality and heart condition.
Unbeknownst to his parents and family, Ben created a two-part video called “This Is My Story,” in which he used flash cards to tell the world about his near-death experiences and his beckoning toward heaven.
When he died a short while later at the tender age of eighteen, his family and the rest of the world stumbled upon these videos. The world responded with overwhelming acceptance of the message Ben shared.
Ben’s vision of heaven was his gift to his family, and to the world. And now this is the Breedlove family’s gift to us—an in-depth look at the life and near-deaths of Ben, the strength and faith of a family, and, ultimately, the hope of heaven.
Do you believe in Angels or God? I Do.—Ben Breedlove
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Ally Breedlove is Ben Breedlove’s older sister. She currently lives in Austin, Texas, where she pursues her love of film, writing, and speaking.
Ken Abraham has published eighty books, including thirteen New York Times bestsellers.
Read an Excerpt
From When Will the Heaven Begin? by Ally Breedlove. Reprinted by arrangement with New American Library, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © The Ben Breedlove Trust, 2013.
Ben stepped into his bedroom, and sat down at his studio desk, taking in the sight of his personal sanctuary. He loved this room that he had inherited when Ally went off to college. In addition to the corner “studio,” he was surrounded by so many meaningful personal items—a small cross given to him by some missionaries from Thailand sat on his nightstand right where the missionaries had left it for him years ago; his surfboard and wakeboard that he loved so much that he kept it in his bedroom rather than a garage or in the boat; his drumsticks, and several personal photos. This was Ben’s place. Or, at least it had been.
His desk, still adorned with his favorite set props, was illuminated by the bright flood of his studio lighting. The gigantic green screen still hung from his bedroom wall, transforming a teenage bedroom into a professional setting. This room had set the stage for every video Ben had ever made, and it would now, for his final project. As much as he loved every second of life in this world, he had a strong feeling that it was no longer his primary residence. Ben took his seat in his studio, and settled into the limelight.
He reached in a drawer and pulled out some three by five inch blank white note cards. He found a black Sharpie and began to write.
He had seen a video on YouTube in which another teen, Kieran Miles, used note cards to express a message without ever speaking a word. Kieran shared how he had been bullied by others for most of his life, but that he was going to make it through, despite the pain and struggle. Ben was profoundly moved by Kieran’s suffering. In fact, after discovering the video, he brought his computer into the kitchen to show it to his parents. Ben decided he had a message that could encourage people to have hope, so he wanted to express it in a similar manner as Kieran had done. In producing his own video, Ben credited Kieran as his inspiration for the flash-card form in which he presented his message.
Jake and his friend Nate popped into Ben’s room to see what he was doing. Jake was accustomed to seeing his brother working on videos, so he wasn’t surprised to see Ben on his computer again. Jake and Nate were more interested in tossing a ball to Chica, the Breedloves’ four-year-old, purebred Maltese, so they went into the room across the hall and didn’t pay much attention to what Ben was doing.
Sitting in front of his green screen, the same spot where he had created videos from various “locations” around the world, Ben leaned in toward the camera on his computer. Normally, he made his videos with his whole set-up—the studio, cameras, lights, with his pseudo-microphone sitting atop his desk, but not this time. For this project, Ben knelt next to his bed, and leaned in close to his laptop. He punched in the music to an instrumental version of “Mad World”, a song originally recorded by British new wave band, Tears For Fears. Singer-songwriter, Gary Jules, rerecorded the song for the movie,Donnie Darko. Jules’ version of the song was also used dozens of times as background music for the classic soap opera, General Hospital, as well as a prime time, hospital based show, Private Practice, a spin off of Grey’s Anatomy. The song was a natural choice for Ben. Although the lyrics weren’t featured in the video, Ben knew them by heart. They almost perfectly choreographed his brush with heaven.
I find it kind of funny . . . .
I find it kind of sad . . . .
The dreams in which I’m dying . . . .
Are the best I’ve ever had . . . .4
No doubt, a reference to his vision on the floor at school,Ben began to show the note-cards in the order he had written them, holding up each card for just a few seconds, barely long enough for his viewers to read the message, before moving on to the next card. He said not a word, but told his story through the handwritten words on the cards, his demeanor, and his countenance.
Ben’s facial features matched the message on the cards. When the card presented a serious message describing his condition of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Ben’s countenance was commensurately serious. But when he told of positive, happy experiences, such as the bright light he had experienced when he was four, or the “vision” in which Kid Cudi joined him in the bright white, waiting room of heaven, he displayed a hint of a smile that let the viewer know that this was a good moment in Ben’s life. Occasionally, his eyes glanced to his upper right, as though searching for something, but he made no reference to whatever he saw there.
When he described receiving a pacemaker, Ben stood up momentarily, and pulled back the neck of his t-shirt, revealing the large reddish scar on his chest. Other than that, he remained seated throughout both sections of the video, staying especially close to the camera on his computer.
He picked up the story on part two of the video, beginning with his collapse in school on December 6th, just a few weeks earlier. He wasn’t obsessed so much with artistic excellence or form on this video. It was obvious that Ben was more concerned about the message than he was the medium. On one of the cards, he had blacked out a mistake rather than creating a new card. Near the end of part 2, Chica’s wagging tail could be clearly seen swishing into the camera shot over Ben’s right shoulder. Ben didn’t seem to mind.
As Ben came to the conclusion of his story, he slowed the pace of the cards, holding each one slightly longer. After describing his experience in “heaven’s waiting room,” Ben added on one of the last cards the poignant statement, “I wish I NEVER woke up.”
Then before the viewer even had time to grapple with the meaning of that statement, Ben asked a question on the next to last card—a question that would profoundly impact the heart of nearly every person who would watch the video. On the next to last card, Ben asked, “Do you believe in Angels or God?”
Holding one more card, Ben added the important message he wanted to share with his friends.
The final card read simply: “I Do.”
Ben didn’t upload the video to his usual channel location, “BreedloveTV.” Instead, Ben decided to upload the video to his newest YouTube channel, “TotalRandomness512,” a play on Austin’s telephone area code. He set up no advertising or any means to gain revenue from this channel. It was a gift.
Looking into the computer screen, Ben gave the video one last look, and pressed “upload.” The two-part YouTube videos simply titled, “This is My Story,” now belonged to the world.
Table of Contents
Part 1 The Gift
Chapter 1 Young Forever 1
Chapter 2 Washed by the Water 5
Chapter 3 Every Fear Has No Place 19
Chapter 4 Calling All Angels 28
Chapter 5 Don't Worry 33
Chapter 6 It's in the Water 39
Chapter 7 Lie Low 44
Chapter 8 Adventure 49
Chapter 9 Dream On 54
Part 2 The Passion
Chapter 10 While Our Blood's Still Young 63
Chapter 11 Say What You Need to Say 68
Chapter 12 With My Brother Standing By 72
Chapter 13 Smile 80
Chapter 14 The Show Goes On 92
Chapter 15 Live Your Life 101
Chapter 16 Who Said We're Wack 108
Chapter 17 Life Keeps Comin' 113
Chapter 18 Original 118
Chapter 19 Looking for a Reason 127
Chapter 20 Feeling Good 142
Chapter 21 This Is Not the End 149
Chapter 22 Still Have Each Other 159
Chapter 23 Show Me What I'm Looking For 162
Chapter 24 Coastin' 168
Part 3 The Purpose
Chapter 25 Don't Fail Me Now 176
Chapter 26 Mad World 183
Chapter 27 Don't Let Me Fall 188
Chapter 28 When Will the Fantasy End? 194
Chapter 29 On the Ledge 201
Chapter 30 I'm Tired 208
Chapter 31 How Far Is Heaven 219
Chapter 32 When Will the Heaven Begin? 224
Chapter 33 Words Important 232
Chapter 34 Like Tomorrow Was a Gift 237
Chapter 35 Beautiful Day 241
Chapter 36 Paradise 247
Chapter 37 Believe 254
Chapter 38 Death Is Broken 260
Chapter 39 Time 263
Chapter 40 It's a Wonderful Life 268
Chapter 41 I Can Only Imagine 274
Chapter 42 Far Beyond My Reach 279
Chapter 43 Live Forever 288
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy 303
What People are Saying About This
“Reading these pages you’ll discover how one precious young man treated life as a gift from God and thus became a gift from God. Just as his many videos and devotion to family and friends touched many hearts, I pray that this book will, too.” —Don Piper, New York Times bestselling author of 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life
“When Will the Heaven Begin? shares Ben Breedlove’s profound message of hope and peace with the world. Ally Breedlove has done a remarkable job in this beautifully simplistic, heartfelt narrative that will endear every reader to Ben, while reminding us to live every day with joy.”—Elizabeth Bryan, coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings
Q: Describe your younger brother Ben.
He is the most joyful person I have ever known. He always had an enormous smile on his face, and he usually spent his time pulling pranks.
Q: What are your favorite memories of Ben?
We are only a year and a half apart in age, so we became best friends when we were little. We complemented each other well, because I would knock sense into his head when he wasn't thinking, and he would encourage me to be more adventurous in life. I remember the first time Ben persuaded me to do something daring. He was three and I was four, and he convinced me to reach the chocolate syrup bottle in the fridge so we could take turns drinking it while our mom was out of the kitchen.
Q: Ben's story has already been an inspiration to many around the world. What do you want people to know about your brother and his life after reading WHEN WILL THE HEAVEN BEGIN?
A few times throughout his life, Ben turned to me and said, “Ally, you know I am going to die young.” I always told him to hush, partly because I didn't want to believe him and partly because I didn't understand why he was telling me this. In retrospect, I see that Ben had developed an unusual maturity at a very young age. He realized that his time was limited, and he took advantage of every momentnot only to enjoy life himself, but also to invest in the lives of others.
Q: What did you think when Ben first shared his story of seeing the bright light as he was wheeled through the hospital, and his visions after that?
I was only six when Ben first shared his experience of seeing the bright light, and I believed him without question. I remember thinking, I wish I could see an angel! As Ben continued to recount the story throughout his later years, he remained sure about what he saw.
Q: How did Ben's near-death experiences change your view of life, heaven, and the afterlife?
The hardest truth I have ever had to accept was my brother telling me that he wished he had never woken up. My heart was broken. I wanted so badly for his suffering to end and for him to experience that incomprehensible peace again, but I also didn't want to let him go. But thenI realized that if God had decided to bring Ben back, it must have been for a very important purpose. That's when it dawned on me that life is a gift, and every single day has been given for a purpose and an opportunity to give something back to the world.
Q: Tell us what HCM is and how it affected Ben's life.
HCM is a disease that prevents the heart from pumping blood effectively. Symptoms range from light-headedness to sudden death. Ben was never allowed to play sports growing up, and he often experienced an irregular heartbeat that made him feel tired and weak. By the time he was fourteen, he began to experience heart failure, and he had to have a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted to control his heart rhythm. His condition worsened over time, and he missed nearly half of the school days each year. His cardiologists suggested a heart transplant, but even that was not considered a cure. Despite the challenges Ben faced, he loved his life. He hardly ever complained, and he found something to smile about every day.
Q: Your parents, Deanne and Shawn, allowed Ben the freedom to live as a “regular kid.” What effect did that have on his outlook on life?
I respect my parents so much for allowing Ben to make his own decisions in life, because he needed to experience that freedom. Had my parents been controlling of Ben's life, he never would have experienced riding a roller coaster, flipping on the wakeboard, parasailing, or any of the other daring activities he attempted. Despite his physical limitations, Ben saw life as an adventure.
Q: This book is a testament to Ben's charisma and the power of his messagehe reached not only his friends and family, but so many others. What do you think draws people to Ben's story and his videos?
Many people have been fascinated by Ben's near death experience, but many have also been intrigued by the sense of peace and contentment Ben exudes while he tells of the difficulties he has faced in life. People want to know what has allowed Ben to come to terms with his life and death, and hope that they can find the same peace for their own lives.
Q: How would you personally answer Ben's question of “Do you believe in angels or God?” Before Ben's passing and the worldwide response to Ben's video, would you have responded the same or differently?
I do believe. My answer would have been the same before Ben's video, but I have gained an entirely new perspective from hearing about Ben's experience.
Q: Throughout the book you refer to your family's close relationship with God. What role did God and religion play in the Breedlove home? How did that relationship (with God) influence your relationship with Ben?
My parents always told Ben, Jake, and me of their belief in God. But they encouraged us to make our own, individual decisions, and to draw our own conclusions about the truth. I developed a relationship with God at a young age, and that is the only reason I was able to live free of fear for Ben's life. And now that Ben has passed away, my belief that in heaven he is more alive than ever keeps me from apathy and despair.
Q: One of the most powerful scenes in the book describes your conversation with Ben about a week before he passed awayyou were sitting on the dock of the lake near your home. What was special about that moment with Ben? How did that talk change you?
He told me that he thinks God let him have the vision so he wouldn't be afraid of dying anymore, and so he would know that heaven is worth it. To have my brother look me in the eyes and tell me that he no longer feared his own death, and that he longed for and was ready for the peace of heaven was a greater gift than I ever could have asked for. God didn't have to bring Ben back, but he did. He gave me the most meaningful moment I have ever shared with my brother, and invited me to be part of a life-changing story.
Q: Why was it important for you to share Ben's story with the world? What was the best part about writing the book?
Writing the book proved to be very therapeutic for meto release all of the emotions I felt about Ben's life and death. But more than that, I am honored that God gave me the opportunity to chronicle my brother's life and share his story with the world at the same time.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ben Breedlove just wanted to be an ordinary person but that was impossible as he was born with HCM or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition meant that Ben’s heart could stop at any moment. While certain strenuous activities or foods could send Ben into atrial fibrillation and eventual HCM, heart failure could also happen at any time, including while he was sleeping. This was an amazing burden for his parents to bear; yet like so many parents with children with special physical needs, they lived with this reality, in fact lived as normal life as one could live under their unique circumstances. The story of Ben is not about illness but about living with the knowledge that one is blessed with what one has and that eventually passing to another life is okay, in fact, more than okay. For Ben that faithful knowledge was a product of experience. Before that special event occurred, however, Ben had to deal with numerous medical tests and curtailment of his eating and play habits as a child. His parents were shocked to learn of this condition, a thickening of the heart muscle which would worsen over time, and the fact that there was no surgery or medicine that could cure it or even ease. While he was given medications which could ease the symptoms, he had to learn to live with it. Ben is depicted as a pleasant child and teen who loved to play tricks on his family, enjoy his friends, and developed a special love for making videos. Close to his parents and sisters, he was a normal person whose condition kept everyone on alert as to the slightest changes in his physical appearance. He even tried some less strenuous sports such as wake surfing but after one particular experience of a fractured ankle was unable to continue what he loved. As Ben grew older, he began making videos for YouTube on just about every topic of interest to teens such as dating, spirituality, etc. Eventually he made a video about his own heart condition and the experience he had in which he clearly knew he was on his way to heaven. He knew from that point on that death wasn’t to be feared; instead he actually welcomed it, very aware that he even longed for it as he knew his heart couldn’t hold out much longer. The video was called, “This is My Story,” Ben’s account of his near death experience told through the use of flash cards. The questions he ultimately asked on these flash cards, before his untimely death at the age of 18 years old, concerned whether the reader believed in God, as well as asking what “you” are doing with the life you are living. Potent words from a teen in a poignant condition. When it comes to a person’s demise coming at a young age, with the consciousness of its looming presence, each person almost always concentrates on the special qualities of everyday living in this earthly environment. But Ben’s life laced with compassion and humor is about what each person is doing in this life that has value and purpose and how important it is to consider the afterlife of heaven. No, there’s no fear here at all. Heaven is described in a highly appealing way and depicted as an appealing experience that should be welcome. It seems that it can’t be anything other than ‘heavenly.” Words cannot fully capture the unique quality of this story about Ben Breedlove. Only the hardest of hearts could read this book and not be deeply moved. It is a tribute to the passionate love of life and God that was Ben’s primary concern and his legacy to the world he left, which is awaiting a reunion with Ben in the heaven he so lovingly describes! Ally Breedlove has written a fitting tribute that is more about her son’s message of love to a hopefully wide audience! Nicely done, indeed, Ally Breedlove!
I have a personal interest in the book as a picture of Ben & my grandson, Justin, out at our ranch is in it when they were little boys. Ben was always one of my favorite friends of Justin because he was such a kind, good person through all his years. I thought I would have trouble reading it as I even broke down at the front of the book when Kid Cudi wrote how Ben changed his life. I was crying so hard, I couldn't read the words. I did not pick the book up again for several days until I felt I was ready to tackle it again. I didn't put it down after that except to sleep & finished it the next day. I laughed & I cried remembering some of the incidents and got lost in the book as if I was reading a novel about someone I didn't know. It is so well written that you become a part of the Breedloves lives and don't want it to end. I will always love & miss Ben. God bless this very special family.
Ben Breedlove was born with a heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) a condition that would end his life at the too young age of 18. When Will Heaven Begin is a celebration of that all too short, exceptional life told by his sister Ally. But Ben was so much more than his disease; he was adventurous, he was a prankster, he was a good and loyal friend. Readers will meet and fall in love with this courageous young man, we will be in awe of his strength of character in the face of unimaginable odds and we will watch him grow from a baby until he got his ultimate wish of going to heaven at 18. And we will experience through Ally’s words the family’s discovery of Ben’s last act caught on a YouTube video he made shortly before his death that went viral. This was Ben’s final gift to his family and the world. This is the story of a brave boy who will make you a believer too. Watch the video; let Ben inspire you like he inspired millions before you
I'd like to be able to tell the whole world about this very important book about Ben Breedlove, his life and message. I loved this book immediately . You will not be disappointed by this book. It was more than I could have asked for.
I loved this book. The fact that the family lived and loved their God-focused life made me rethink my own family values and how my husband, daughters and I would handle such a wonderful, yet tragically short, life. I think that Ally wrote this as only a loving sister could write it, and that she really explored the relationships Ben had with his family (I loved the photo of him teaching Jake to fish!) and with his friends. Mr. and Mrs. Breedlove should be very proud of all three of their children and the impact their lives have had on complete strangers.
I loved this book so much that I bought copies for friends. I think everyone would get a blessing from reading about his life and close family. I also think teenagers would enjoy this example of how he shared his faith and lived a full life in his short time on earth.
This book is amazing! I immediately connected with the book and even when I first heard of his death. I related so much to his story because I had best friend who passed away early 2011 of a similar heart condition. Hearing and reading his story put me t ease; like its also what my friend wanted having the same kind of love to Kid Cudi as Ben did. I have recommended this book too many of my friends because it's truly an amazing book. Thank you Ally for sharing his journey and the joy he brought to many.
Bens story is a wonderful platform to introduce God to the people. It is a nice fast paced read. However great the message, i was not a fan of the writing style. I didnt get to the emotional place I was expecting to reach.
Even just a taste of Heaven as he had will fill the heart with Joy for what is to come at the end of this life on earth.
This is written at a 4th grade level. I really had difficulty staying focused. In addition, and most importantly, I was truly appalled to learn that while in rehab, Ben pretty much destroyed his wheelchair to the point of needing a new one. How many unfortunate people in desperate need of a chair cannot afford it & this kid is destroying it. The young man has a heart disease & mom feeds him fast food - unbelievable. After reading through to chapter 15, I could no longer continue reading this book.
This book was so moving I could not put it down!
READ THIS BOOK! I read this book in one day. You can tell the author isn't a writer but her story is amazing. I am not religious person at all but I read this book with an open mind. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and most of all it will make you think. This is a wonderful account of her brother and Im very glad she took the time to write it.
WOW! This is a very good book. Ben was very inspirational. I don't have any children but would have liked a child like Ben. But what a challenge to teach him the freedom his family taught him! He was definitely no "sissy."
What a blessing Ben Breedlove was to everyone who had the honor of hearing his story. This was a true example of how God sometimes uses us to send a message to others. This was an inspiring story that gives hope for a future beyond this life. I would recommend this book to others.
I really like this book
It is a true story about this boy Ben Breedlove. His sister wrote the book after he died. It is a very good story about Ben from the time he was born till his passing. Its a must read.
I recently lost someone special and this book was a great comfort to me. It is well written and heartfelt.
How is Astrid doing?
Read the summary at the overview. I want to get srarted on Chapter one. It WILL make you cry! Please tell me if I should do this. ~ Amber
Pads in. "Thank you for meeting me." (Sorry so late, was very busy in rl)