In tribute to Ben

I never had the opportunity of meeting Ben Breedlove, an 18 year old who was diagnosed with a heart condition since he was a little boy. I was fortunate however to see his beautiful video that left all who watched it touched and very sad but very hopeful too. I cried as I watched his video and thought he had tremendous courage as he knew he was dying. I can’t imagine what it feels like knowing you have a terminal illness and you anticipate death is imminent but you still try to live your life and still plan for your future. I never felt as moved as I did when I watched Ben’s video. What makes this video so special is that Ben does not say a word.

What he did was tell his story on index cards which he held up for all of us to read. He showed one card at a time as he revealed his thoughts and feelings on how he cheated death several times and how each time he managed to survive when it seemed grim. He also pauses at times and smiles. In smiling he truly reveals a human quality that is so beautiful and as you watch you can’t help but feel for him knowing that he had passed away on Christmas day, 2011. The video was made the week before and you would never know he was dying. He seemed like a typical teenager with hopes and dreams and a charming way about him.

The first time he reveals he experienced a near death experience was as a young child of 4 years old after having a very serious and life threatening seizure. He said he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which is a condition that causes blood flow to and from the heart to be restricted because of thickening heart tissue. It is a serious condition and can result in premature death. The sad reality for Ben and his family was that it was certain Ben would not live a long life due to his illness and he tried to live and accept his situation under the extraordinary circumstances. You could not help but shed a tear watching his video knowing he had already died but displayed such courage and hope. He also revealed in his near death experiences that he saw visions of bright light and felt an incredible peace. He has inspired so many with his incredible videos that have struck a chord with all who watch them . He also had a youtube page and a blog where he shared his thoughts and feelings on life and on his diagnosis.

I have seen a handful of videos made by others in tribute to Ben and was touched by two made by girls who also have personal battles of their own and you could see how they were deeply touched by his videos. One of the girls has only one arm and a stub where the other would be and she does not reveal this until the very end of the video after she shares her thoughts and feelings in her own words on index cards without speaking. She also praises Ben and sheds a tear for him and also shares her beautiful smile like Ben. The other girl also did a similar video where she shares her story of living with depression and how she was also inspired by Ben’s story. She too does not speak as she relates her story on index cards as well and shares it with the viewers. I was touched by their stories as well and by how much they were affected and inspired by Ben. It really warms your heart and makes you realize how one person can touch so many and have such a profound impact.

I believe that Ben has been taken away early in his life because he was so very special and I believe he is an extraordinary person who has given us all a beautiful gift in revealing his life experiences and his message of hope. I pray for him and for his family that they will be strong and will get through this difficult time. I believe they will find healing in the power and beauty of their son’s message and will continue to be touched by the worlds response to their son’s beautiful videos. I believe they will also be inspired by their son’s message and feel comforted knowing that their son is at peace and is now protected by God.

Ben is an inspiration to all. May he rest in peace.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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