Ben Underwood was born a happy, healthy baby. His mother, Aquanetta, described Ben as “the happiest kid in the world.” Then, when Ben was just two years old, the unthinkable happened: Ben was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, cancer in both eyes.
Four years after the surgery, something astonishing happened to this brave little boy. When he was 7 years old, he discovered that by clicking his tongue, he could navigate his surroundings. With this gift, technically known as echolocation, he could sense where people, poles, pillars, openings, doorways and more were in relation to his body.
Sadly, in 2009, Ben died from the same cancer that originally claimed his sight. Today, Ben’s mother, Aquanetta, tells us that her son wasn’t afraid of taking his final breath. “In that process, it was a wonderful celebration. It wasn’t a sad thing,” she says. “There were about 2,000, maybe 2,500 people at his funeral. Every age. Every nationality. There was so much love and so much joy in that place that to this day, I’m even still joyful about it.”
Aquanetta, who wrote the book Echoes of an Angel in honor of her son, learned a deep lesson from Ben’s acceptance of death. “Although I did bury my son, it’s not a sad thing because Ben taught me not only how to live” she says. “Ben taught me how to die.”