When Will The Heaven Begin?: This is Ben Breedlove’s Story. Penguin Group (USA). October 2013. 320 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451239648.
Ben Breedlove just wanted to be an ordinary person but that was impossible as he was born with HCM or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition meant that Ben’s heart could stop at any moment. While certain strenuous activities or foods could send Ben into atrial fibrillation and eventual HCM, heart failure could also happen at any time, including while he was sleeping. This was an amazing burden for his parents to bear; yet like so many parents with children with special physical needs, they lived with this reality, in fact lived as normal life as one could live under their unique circumstances. The story of Ben is not about illness but about living with the knowledge that one is blessed with what one has and that eventually passing to another life is okay, in fact, more than okay. For Ben that faithful knowledge was a product of experience.
Before that special event occurred, however, Ben had to deal with numerous medical tests and curtailment of his eating and play habits as a child. His parents were shocked to learn of this condition, a thickening of the heart muscle which would worsen over time, and the fact that there was no surgery or medicine that could cure it or even ease. While he was given medications which could ease the symptoms, he had to learn to live with it. Ben is depicted as a pleasant child and teen who loved to play tricks on his family, enjoy his friends, and developed a special love for making videos. Close to his parents and sisters, he was a normal person whose condition kept everyone on alert as to the slightest changes in his physical appearance. He even tried some less strenuous sports such as wake surfing but after one particular experience of a fractured ankle was unable to continue what he loved.
As Ben grew older, he began making videos for YouTube on just about every topic of interest to teens such as dating, spirituality, etc. Eventually he made a video about his own heart condition and the experience he had in which he clearly knew he was on his way to heaven. He knew from that point on that death wasn’t to be feared; instead he actually welcomed it, very aware that he even longed for it as he knew his heart couldn’t hold out much longer. The video was called, “This is My Story,” Ben’s account of his near death experience told through the use of flash cards. The questions he ultimately asked on these flash cards, before his untimely death at the age of 18 years old, concerned whether the reader believed in God, as well as asking what “you” are doing with the life you are living. Potent words from a teen in a poignant condition.
When it comes to a person’s demise coming at a young age, with the consciousness of its looming presence, each person almost always concentrates on the special qualities of everyday living in this earthly environment. But Ben’s life laced with compassion and humor is about what each person is doing in this life that has value and purpose and how important it is to consider the afterlife of heaven. No, there’s no fear here at all. Heaven is described in a highly appealing way and depicted as an appealing experience that should be welcome. It seems that it can’t be anything other than ‘heavenly.”
Words cannot fully capture the unique quality of this story about Ben Breedlove. Only the hardest of hearts could read this book and not be deeply moved. It is a tribute to the passionate love of life and God that was Ben’s primary concern and his legacy to the world he left, which is awaiting a reunion with Ben in the heaven he so lovingly describes! Ally Breedlove has written a fitting tribute that is more about her brother’s message of love to a hopefully wide audience! Nicely done, indeed, Ally Breedlove!