AUSTIN (KXAN) - Ben Breedlove, a Westlake High School student who told the world of his life-threatening heart disease through his own YouTube channel, died on Christmas Day. He was 18.
"It was a really good Christmas," said his sister, Ally. "We realized Ben got the best Christmas gift out of all of us. He got the gift everyone is going to get some day."
He used several channels called "OurAdvice4You" and "Breedlove TV" to explain effects the disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy had on his life and his ability to live it.
Many of his more than 60,000 followers sent the videos to several national news outlets, including CNN and the Huffington Post. His funeral, which will be open to the public, will be at the north campus of Gateway Church on McNeil Road on Thursday at 3 p.m. KXAN will stream the service live on our website.
In his final video posted one week before his death, Breedlove told his story by flashing hand-written placards.
"The first time I cheated death was when I was 4," he said on the cards he held. "I had a life-threatening seizure. Scary, right?"
Breedlove tells of his memory of being rushed on a stretcher by nurses as his mother ran along by his side.
"There was this big, bright light above me," he said on the placards. "I told my mom, 'Look at the bright light' and pointed up. She said she didn't see anything."
He said he was overcome by a feeling of peace, which made him smile.
"I had no worries, like nothing else in the world mattered," he wrote.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a thickening of the heart muscle, making it difficult to pump blood. It can also affect the heart's electrical system.
His parents, Shawn and Deanne Breedlove, said on Tuesday they knew early on their son would not have a long life.
While they were not aware of his final video until the day after his death, Breedlove had told them about the unusual experiences that occurred when he "cheated death," including a vision that came to him during his latest episode.
On Dec. 6, while paramedics were reviving him at school, he stood in a white room wearing a white suit. His favorite rapper, Kid Cudi, was with him.
"I then looked in the mirror, I was proud of myself of my entire life, everything I have done. It was the BEST feeling," he wrote.
"I didn't want to leave that place. I wish I NEVER woke up," he wrote. "Do you believe in angels or God? I do."
"I just think Ben opened doors for a lot of people to think about something that maybe they've never thought about before," his mother, Deanne Breedlove, said. "And that to me is a wonderful gift."
"One of the things I noticed about that video is he was very confident in what he was sharing that day," said his dad, Shawn. "And he wasn't sad when he made that video.
"I spoke to a friend who was in the room with him when he made that video and he was just enjoying what he was doing but it was obviously a very serious subject matter for him to discuss and for him to share with other people."
Kid Cudi posted a message on his blog after watching Ben's video and ended it with, "To Ben's family, you raised a real hero. He's definitely mine."
Friends also said they believe the song playing in the background of his final video was well thought out. It is the instrumental version of Mad World by Tears for Fears. One of the lyrics says, "The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I ever had."
Breedlove also used YouTube to offer dating advice to others. Several viewers expressed gratitude for his efforts and sorrow for his death.
"To Ben's family reading this, I am SO sorry for what happened," one viewer posted. "He's in a better place now. Love u Ben."
Wrote another: "We all hardly can wait to meet you in heaven someday. Save us a spot, Ben."
On Tuesday afternoon, Ben's friends sent dozens of Tweets, asking everyone to wear white on the first day back at school after holiday break, in his honor.
"It's just really touching to know how he's been touching everyone's lives," said one of his close friends Alex Faglie. "Even though I miss him a lot, I know he's in a better place and it's good to know he's at peace and is happy where he is."
Deanne Breedlove said Ben, who died after the family had opened their Christmas presents, had "wanted to be free from not being able to do some things" most teens take for granted. She added that his sister said now there is nothing holding him back.
"We miss him, but for Ben's sake we're thankful that he's in a wonderful place and he has the abilities now he didn't have before," Deanne Breedlove said. "On Christmas we gave our son back to God and now he has eternal life."
Many teens post in his honor
Since news of Ben's death has spread, many of his friends and also those who did not know him have uploaded videos about Ben on YouTube. Here are links to just a few of them:
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