A harrowing recount of a senior’s life-changing Christmas

I was ready for these kinds of situations. I’d had some experience in the past with what was about to happen, but nothing as heart wrenching as this. With my chest pounding and my mind racing, I sprinted inside the house, stumbling through the garden. I yelled for my parents as I grabbed for the phone. My dad nearly trampled me as he burst through the doorway. This was the first time in my life I had to call 911, and in the chaos of the moment, I lost sight of what was actually happening which made it very challenging to stay focused.

I woke up early Christmas morning super excited to see what was under the tree. I ran to every bedroom to wake up the family, starting with my brother first because his room was closest to mine. It was always fun drinking eggnog or sparkling cider and sitting in the living room with the puppies, ready to begin a banger of a holiday. And that is exactly what we did. Throughout the morning we opened presents, listening to jolly Christmas music, laughing and enjoying the wonderful day. After cleaning up the living room, full of shredded wrapping paper courtesy of Chica, the little snowball of a dog, we started our traditional game of Monopoly. Always a game full of corruption between my dad and brother Ben, we battled and argued as some succeeded and some failed. It was a long game, but we weren’t close to being done, so we took a break. Little did we know that the rest of the evening would be completely opposite of a little break.

Ben and I went out on the trampoline to try out our new Gopro with our neighbor friends Nate and Benji. We had good laughs about goofy videos we tried to make, but we were frustrated with our inability to work some of the Gopro settings. About an hour went by as we continued to jump on the trampoline with the Gopro until I noticed Ben lying on the rock wall that surrounded the garden.

“Ben, are you feeling bad?” I asked with worry.

“Yeah,” Ben said.

“Do I need to go get Mom?” I said.


I immediately jumped into action, because when Ben said he was feeling bad, it wasn’t just because he was tired, but because he could feel his heart failing, and I knew very well what he was telling me. It was immediately after I ran inside to get my parents, when Ben went into cardiac arrest for the third time this month, due to his heart condition Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). I struggled to explain the situation to the operator over the phone, so my sister, Ally, ripped the phone out of my hand to take over. I felt so helpless when this happened. The only way I felt I could help was to wait by the driveway for the ambulance. I waited maybe five minutes, which felt more like 30. I tried to lead the paramedics to the back yard where Ben was, but it almost seemed like they were simply walking their way, not rushing to save my brother. It was frustrating to me knowing that they needed to hurry because heart failure is not a walking matter.

Eventually after what seemed like an eternity, they finally took him to the hospital after stabilizing him in the yard. That was a long drive, but I don’t remember much from it. We arrived at the hospital. My sister and I waited in the waiting room with family friends who were going to eat dinner with us that night. Nothing but tears the entire time. Again, after what felt like years, the door to the small room opened slowly, and our parents walked in. My dad came in first, and immediately, my sister and I saw the expression on his face. It was right then when we knew, and an ocean of tears filled our eyes. I haven’t ever re-lived that day since then. I’ve thought about it a little, but not in detail. I will always remember every single detail of that day.

Ben’s legacy has lived on ever since he passed, through many outlets. The world heard Ben’s voice through his Youtube channels full of pranks, advice and his most popular two-part video, where he shared his story worldwide. He put his mark out there, impacting many lives, teaching people to make the most of each day. Because of him, millions have hope and aren’t afraid of death. This is just the tip of the iceberg. At the same time his video was spreading, the book about Ben’s life, “When Will the Heaven Begin?”, written by my sister Ally, was also reaching people all over the world. To this day, people still contact my family and me about how their lives were changed because of my brother. I would like that to continue, and I enjoy putting in an effort to share his story. I’ve made t-shirts, stickers, told friends and even gotten a tattoo to commemorate and spread Ben’s story. Parts of this story are sad and heart breaking, but Ben will forever be remembered as one of the most joyful and upbeat people in the world.