Former Belmont student Ally Breedlove found her brother Ben’s “This is my story” videos just hours after he died on Christmas night.
“I had no idea the video existed,” she said. “I got on Facebook and it was already everywhere. It already had almost 100,000 views.”
Strange, she said, because when he died just earlier that night, the videos only had gotten about 300 views, and Ben Breedlove, 18, probably wasn’t even aware of that.
Even stranger, because Breedlove had several profitable YouTube channels, he intentionally made a new channel without viewers or money for these “story” videos.
“We’re not quite sure why he did that, but maybe he wanted us to find it later,” Ally said of her younger brother. “I have no idea how it got this big, but I just attribute it all to God… and that God had a message he really wanted to get out. He’s reached so many people through Ben.”
In fact, part one of Ben’s story has gotten more than 3.8 million views since it went viral on December 26. His video, split into two parts, describes the 18-year-old’s lifelong battle with a condition that can thicken the heart muscle and lead to cardiac arrest, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The condition kept him in and out of hospitals his entire life, causing him to miss school, sometimes for more than half a year. It also came close to claiming his life three times, most recently last December. He described this in his “story” videos by holding up notecards he’d written on, as Gary Jules’ “Mad World” played in the background.
In these recent brushes with death, he had a “dream or vision” where he felt he made contact with the afterlife.
He was in front of a mirror, next to his favorite rapper, Kid Cudi. “I then looked at myself in the mirror and I was proud of myself, of my entire life, everything I’ve done,” Ben’s cards read in the video.
When he regained consciousness, he says he missed the place he’d been. He’d had “the BEST feeling” while there.
This gives Ally and the rest of the Breedlove family reassurance that Ben was comfortable to go.
“Just knowing that he wasn’t scared or sad and he didn’t feel any pain is a huge comfort to us,” Ally, 19, said. “We are really feeling a peace that God has given us.”
Ally attended Belmont University her freshman year, but now studies communications as a sophomore at Texas Christian University. While at Belmont, she was a member of Phi Mu Theta, and has stayed connected to many of her sisters as an alumna.
Breedlove’s big in the sorority, Phi Mu president Katie Rush,saw the video on Twitter and Facebook, and then shared it on the Phi Mu Facebook page. Ally’s boyfriend Cameron Thompson shared it with his Phi Delta Theta brothers as well, Rush said. Before the videos became viral nationwide, dozens of Belmont students tweeted or posted about Ben’s story.
“Ally was loved by the Greek community here, so people were more than willing to share Ben’s message,” said Rush.
And what is that message?
“Making the best out of the worst situation possible through your faith,” Rush said, “and continuing to believe when it seems there’s nothing left to believe in. Realize that life is short so every action you make counts for something.”
The video has generated Facebook pages, thousands of posts on Tumblr, YouTube responses, features in national news, and “Ben Breedlove” trended worldwide on Twitter.
Kid Cudi even responded to the story, saying, “To Ben’s family, you raised a real hero, he’s definitely mine. You have my love. – Scott Mescudi.”
Ally Breedlove said she was devastated after her brother died. While the family wasn’t expecting all the media attention, they’re willing to let God use it for good.
“We see it as a great opportunity for Ben’s message to get out, for people to find truth in what Ben says and get closer to God,” she said for her family from Austin, Texas.
The Breedlove family has started the Ben Breedlove Memorial Fund benefiting Africa New Life Ministries for those who want to honor Ben. Africa New Life aims to end “poverty in Rwanda by providing education, spiritual insight and basic necessities to poor children and families,” according to their website.
“Ben has always been really compassionate about other people, and he was really concerned that such horrible things would happen to children,” said Ally.
Despite, or perhaps because of, Ben’s struggles with his health, he had compassion for others who were in pain.
Ally believes it was the driving force behind his final video.
“The main point that Ben wanted to make was just to reach out and let people relate to someone else who had a little bit of suffering in their life,” she said, “so everybody could have a little bit of hope.”