I didn’t know anything about the Ben Breedlove story until I watched the CBS Sunday Morning profile of it from yesterday. It’s probably one of the more inspirational things I’ve ever seen a major media outlet tackle — and yes, while there’s a degree of saccharine to it, there’s a degree of that to almost everything. My personal view of it might involve some context (again, everything does), because I just came back from my aunt’s funeral about two weeks ago; she was 60, which is absolutely, positively too young to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Kid Cudi, who I actually listen to pretty regularly, even got involved in the Breedlove story. (MTV took this story one step further, claiming he “broke down” over Breedlove’s death.) Familiar news outlets — ABC, People — tackled the story, Reddit discussed the veracity of his visions, and a search for “Ben Breedlove response” on YouTube gives you roughly 4,000 results.
Let’s get to the core of the issue, though — are his descriptions accurate, or can they be explained in some type of logical, medical way? NDEs are what the Internet tends to call near-death experiences; here’s an interesting article about some research that came out of Texas A&M on the topic. A Belgian researcher has claimed the afterlife is “even more real than real,” and this TED.com thread on it (now closed) is fairly interesting as well. I honestly can’t think of a bigger, more central question to life that no one knows a definitive answer to — sure, you can ask something super intense and broad ala “Why are we here?” or “How did the universe actually begin?” To my knowledge, those don’t have 100 percent definitive answers either. But those also aren’t tied up deeply in faith, love, and the belief that you’ll have access to/time with a person in another context.
There’s a Near-Death Experience Research Foundation, and searching “near death experience” on Amazon leads to about 37,000 results. Clearly, ’tis a topic of interest for many — and that’s probably part of the reason, along with a life taken far too young, that Breedlove’s story resonates so deeply. Ally Breedlove, Ben’s sister, actually just wrote a book on this topic; it’s one of those 37K results.
For those that want to deeply believe, here’s some scientific evidence on the side of NDEs; here’s a piece from The Daily Mail on seeing the afterlife. Radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long also believes the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” There was a fairly interesting 20/20 special on heaven last year; you can watch the beginnings of that here. And, as mentioned at the end of the CBS Sunday Morning piece on Breedlove (which I’ll embed below for easier viewing), a recent study indicated that eight of 10 Americans do believe in angels. Honestly, I find that tremendous and beautiful — and I hope Ben Breedlove’s story gives hope to many more.