Ben Breedlove. The beautiful boy who posted a video about his heart condition and his brushes with heaven. He had four of them. Four heart-attacks. Four brushes with the eternal. The 4th took his life on Christmas Day.
I read a lot of tragedy these days. I used to report a lot of those tragedies on nj.com, if there was a parental guidance angle. I stopped writing about those kinds a year ago. You can imagine why? Some stories once you open them, can never be closed.
The little girl from down the shore, her dad had visiting rights. Angry with mom he takes the precious two year-old and flings her, still strapped into her car seat, into the river. I say fling with purpose. Maybe you fling an OBJECT across the room. This was a child, his child. He threw her to her death.
I can never get that back. I can never shake that off. She haunts me. So I have to try my hardest to know when to open and when to walk away. Maybe Ben won me over with his good looks. He’s got that Justin Beiber thing going on, only Ben's smile is better (Sorry Beibs). And then he starts telling me his story on video with little handwritten cards. I read each one carefully. I started to get a little weepy. But Ben is smiling. Smiling.
And he’s talking of death and light. Heaven and Kid Cudi. He’s talking about fear of living now that he’s had a brush with heaven. He’s talking of feeling proud of his good deeds. Will I be proud of mine? What have I done? This boy, I know how this story ends before I even begin, it’s in the title. He dies. But holy cow this isn’t a tragedy. This is a gift. I weep a little. Get on my hands and knees and pray for Ben and his family. Thank you Ben.
I watched his older sister Ally on video. She’s equally as stunning as Ben. It was at his memorial. One night she came home from college. Maybe for a week. I don’t remember. But she couldn’t find Ben. At 4 am she finds him out by the dock on the water. He is sitting and staring. She asked him if he was ok. And, as gently as he could put it, he told her he felt closest to God at these moments. Early morning and water. And then he cried because he wanted to go back. She cried and begged him to stay, as long as possible Ben. Please don’t leave us.
I’ve been walking around with Ben for weeks now. One morning, a couple weeks ago, I checked my blog fan page. Two messages:
Please take my picture off your Pornstar in the Classroom Story on nj.com before I sue you. Yikes. OK. I had the rights by the way. And then this,
Keep your head up kid. I like your style. –Shawn Breedlove (Ben’s dad).
A wave of chills hit me and I sat and stared at it. I cried and smiled. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. And don’t believe my children, I'm a collector of cool. I know a cool thing when I see it. This was beyond cool. Ben’s dad out of all the stories that have been written, saw mine. This kid’s video went viral? That means that there were a million stories out there on Ben. And his dad found mine. And then my blog.
If you’ve read my story about Vince, you know the significance of those words to me…keep your head up kid. I jumped out of bed. And I wrote him an inbox. The gist was thank you. He had just lost Ben and he sought me out to make me feel better. SO, I wrote him some blubbering inbox. This morning I got a response.
Disclaimer: I could have written this for nj.com, but something in me feels like I might be exploiting something personal between Shawn and I. Sharing his letter to me, on my little old personal blog feels right. My closest friends and family read this blog. Not many beyond that. Well, except the masturbation and other honesties blog , but I am convinced it is because I used a naughty word in the title.
Shawn’s letter to me:
Jamie, I wrote you that note because your blog was one of the most thoughtful I had seen. I understand your struggle from a parent's viewpoint, and your writing is drenched in the extra sense that you have due to your struggle. Ben was friends with atheists, drug users and other messed up kids because he could relate to their struggle. He did not judge them.
As I read your blogs, I enjoy the raw honesty and truth that you share....and may I add some of the same?
I would like to leave you with a personal thought......one that we had to live by every day because we never knew what tomorrow was to bring.........
"Today is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it". We are not overly religious people, but we began to understand that God is good. We began to thank Him and to consciously enjoy each day we had with Ben because it made every single day another great day in this life. We have no regrets for the wonderful life Ben gave us and the wonderful life he is living today....on the other side.
It is hard to believe that God or heaven is real when you lose a child, but our only alternative was to cling to a dead body.......the choice was very easy after just a few moments of doubt in the emergency room. Ben gave us plenty of reason to believe that God's peace and heaven is real, having struggled with the fear of dying for some time. He shared things that he would never have shared had they not been real. He was too skeptical to believe untrue things.
So, we walked in fear too.........the fear that we would prematurely lose our child, and I can't imagine what you must feel as a result of your diagnosis. I will pray for you, that you can exchange the doctor's diagnosis for the joy and peace of God in each day that he has made specifically for you.
Your blogs are proof to me that you have a lot to share with this world similar to the way that Ben did. So, keep your head up kid.....God wants to use you in a big way, and he will reward you for diligently seeking him. Love,
So why did I have to share this at all? I had to share this because of the lessons that lay in Ben’s life. In Shawn’s. In the Breedloves. I don’t believe it was a message that should lay in an inbox between friends. It a lesson that needs to be viral.
Today is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.