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
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
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
“Ben Breedlove’s story affected me deeply from the moment I first heard it. We are all lucky that Ally Breedlove shared Ben’s incredible experiences and discovery with the world in When Will the Heaven Begin? Ben’s life was filled with struggles that no person or family would ever wish for, but what he ultimately came to realize was that every life, and everything in your life, truly matters and has a purpose. His unshakable belief in God and the perfect peace that is waiting for all of us in heaven will provide hope and inspiration to millions.”—Glenn Beck
“Ever since Ben came into my life I have been on a new journey. He saved me. Not drugs, not liquor, Ben. I think it's safe to say that he single-handedly reignited the spark in me to keep going and to keep creating. I do believe that he was sent here on a mission from God.”—Scott Mescudi (a.k.a. Kid Cudi)
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.