AUSTIN (KXAN) - What happens before you die?
That's a question many people have been contemplating following the death of 18-year-old Westlake High School senior Ben Breedlove, who posted videos online before he died, which hint at possibilities.
Some people who face death every day for a living are reacting to Breedlove's message. The caregivers at Hospice Austin spoke out on Friday.
"I thought, 'Yeah, I've heard that story before,' and so I thought, 'Good, I'm glad, good for him,'" said Hospice Austin director of clinical services Paige Fletcher.
During his funeral service Thursday, Pastor John Burke spoke about Breedlove's near-death experiences which started at age 4, until most recently when he collapsed at school earlier this month.
"He didn't know if it was a dream or a vision, but he told the family. It was as real as anything he's ever experienced," said Burke, lead pastor at Gateway Church. "He found himself in a room that he later told his family that he believed was kind of like a foyer or an entry way to heaven."
Just before he died on Christmas Day, Breedlove posted silent videos on YouTube . His handwritten flashcards told about the times he cheated death. How he felt a peaceful feeling, could not stop smiling and had the best feeling ever.
The director of volunteer and bereavement services at Hospice Austin, Nancy Chester McCraine, said Breedlove's videos are a gift to his family and the world.
"They were comforting to me. It's like hearing an old story again told through somebody else's voice and somebody else's heart," said McCraine.
As a nurse, Fletcher has a medical background, and as the former chaplain, McCraine brings a spiritual background -- both were touched by Ben's story, but say a true answer to what he and many others experience is unknown.
"You know, medicine tries to explain what happens -- it's hypoxia in the brain creating visions, but nobody really knows exactly what it is. So, I think it's important for each person to develop their own meaning," said McCraine.
"I think some of the most profound, important things in life can't be explained. Love is one, death and what happens is another, so let it be a mystery, but a mystery of love, and allow what Ben gave us to be a comfort and a gift," said Fletcher.
Hospice Austin workers say death is something we will all experience, so we should approach it with an open curiosity and respect, not fear. And it seems that's exactly what Breedlove did.
"I can imagine a lot of people would take hope in knowing that, at least for Ben, everything was all right and life and death aren't that far apart," said McCraine.
So, in the end, Breedlove may have been trying to explain something most don't fully realize until their own end.
"Life is precious, life is a gift as well and calls for our full participation, but I think death is not to be feared. It's a part of life, and Ben was given that comfort and he extended that to the rest of us," said McCraine.
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