Hundreds gather at memorial for courageous teen



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Posted on December 29, 2011 at 10:41 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 30 at 11:23 AM

AUSTIN -- An Austin teen's life, death and online legacy were remembered Thursday. More than 1,500 people attended the memorial service for Ben Breedlove at the Gateway Church in Northwest Austin.

Photos show Ben Breedlove as a vibrant teenager loving life and family. However, those photos don't tell his entire story.

"It was so unexpected," said Glynn Sullivan, a friend of Ben's. "He always told me he had a heart condition, but I didn't know it was really that serious."

Breedlove, who was 18, died Christmas Day after a lifelong battle with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It is an illness that causes the heart muscle to thicken. The heart has to work harder to pump blood. 

"I have a pacemaker," said Breedlove during a YouTube video he posted a year ago.

Breedlove started chronicling his illness on YouTube and had gained millions of followers. A week before his death, he hand wrote notes on flash cards to convey his messages about his illness and about his Christian faith. 

At Thursday's service, his sister Ally recalled how recently Ben told her about the peace he found in a vision.

"God let me feel that peace before I came back, so that I would know that heaven is worth it," said Ally Breedlove, relaying what Ben had told her.

After the service, family friends of all ages recalled how Ben touched their lives.

"It just really made me look back and reevaluate my life," said Analisa Gonzalez. "To see the choices that I'm making, and what influence am I giving off. Is my death going to have that kind of impact on people?"

"He was given a life, and he was given a story," said Betsy Dupree, one of Ben's former teachers. "He knew it wasn't just something he needed to deal with himself. He needed to share it with others, so he could help others and bless others with the encouragement that there is joy even among suffering."

"In the 18 years he lived bigger and more than people who lived to be 80," said Jill Scott. "I think that his message is going to be incredible."

"It is exciting to know that Ben planted a seed in people's mind that things really do matter in life," said Deanne Breedlove, Ben's mother. "We all have hope.  Everyone has challenges, but we have a real hope, and he saw that. He felt the peace of God. I think Ben would want anyone who is struggling with anything to know that you can make it through. If you don't know how to get to that point, just let your heart quietly ask for God's help and see what happens." 

A Facebook tribute page and fund-raising site have been made in Breedlove's honor.