Family revisits 18-year-old YouTube sensation's life, death

Nicole Villalpando

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 7:00 a.m. MDT

On their boat dock a few days after he died, Ben talked to Ally about wanting to go back to that peaceful place. The boat dock was his most peaceful place on Earth where he could talk to God. He told Ally, "Coming out here in the middle of the night when it's quiet and the water is so still ... it's the closest I can get to that peaceful feeling," Ally Breedlove writes in the book.

He talked about the fender-bender he had been in just days after he died and the irate driver. "'Why did I have to come back to this?'" Ben told Ally, she says.

On that dock, he told Ally that he thought God let him see the white room so he wouldn't be afraid of dying, "And so I would know that heaven is worth it," Ally writes.

''He was frustrated because he felt like he had lived his life fully," she says, "but after he finally tasted the peace of heaven, he had to return to his suffering in the world."

Ben died again Dec. 17 while at a friend's ranch 2 1/2 hours outside of Austin. This time his family was with him and watched him go down, but a bystander did CPR and Ben revived. He went to the nearest hospital but refused to stay there. The family drove home that night.

The next day was Sunday and instead of going to church, the family had church in their pajamas in the living room. They asked Ben about his visit to heaven and they prayed for his heart. Ben prayed: "God, I pray that my family wouldn't be sad or scared for me anymore, because I'm not sad or scared. I pray that they would have the same peace I have," Ally Breedlove writes. "And I'm okay with whatever God decides."

Later, Shawn Breedlove says he told Ben, "'You need to record the events in your life. They are significant to you.' Then Ben went back to his room. He would pop back up and ask us questions."

They now know that Ben was working on the video that would go viral a week later, the day he died.

Christmas

The day started out so happy, Deanne Breedlove says. They were together and Ben was in a good mood. But at around 4:45 p.m. Ben collapsed outside their home. He looked like he had the last time he had died. They started CPR and called an ambulance. Seconds turned to minutes. This time Ben wasn't waking up. He was taken to the hospital. His parents were with him as doctors worked on him, but after a while, a doctor asked them what they wanted to do. Ben was unresponsive.

''In our hearts we knew he had already passed," Deanne says.

They gave their approval to stop intervention. And they stayed in the room with him and hugged him.

''We wanted to be there with Ben, but he wasn't there," Shawn says.

''He was already being comforted by Jesus," Deanne says.

They found it difficult to leave, but then they began the unreal walk to the room where Ally and Jake were waiting.

Ally, who had been thinking since Thanksgiving that Ben was going to die soon, didn't want to believe it had happened until her parents told her Ben was in heaven.

''His whole life, I remember him telling me, 'Ally, you know I'm going to die young,'" she says. "I would always say, 'Don't say that.'"

The family had to go home. "It was the worst thing," Shawn Breedlove says. "You never leave your children at the hospital."

Life after Ben

No one really slept that night, but news of Ben's death began to spread among his friends and was all over Facebook. Ally's boyfriend came over. He had been on Facebook, seen the news and also a link to the video that Ben had made the week before. He shared the video with Ally that night.

The family does not know who found the video or how it began to go viral. Ben had published the two parts the day he made them, but instead of putting it on any of his usual YouTube video channels he put it on a new channel TotalRandomness512.

That next morning, Shawn Breedlove says he realized, "We have to wake up to a new world."

''It was very sad," Deanne Breedlove says.

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