Beloved Christ Presbyterian Academy teacher Ben Ellis dies

The beloved teacher serenaded by an entire student body last week has passed away.

Ben Ellis, a Latin teacher for eight years at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Brentwood, died from esophageal cancer about 10 days after students and faculty gathered in his driveway to sing worship songs with him, according to an email the school sent to parents early Friday morning.

"Ben entered Heaven fully healed; he is home," Headmaster Nathan Morrow wrote in the email.

A video from the students singing at Ellis' house went viral, thanks in part to country star Tim McGraw posting it on social media.

The video has more than 20 million views, touching people nationwide — including Ellis himself, who emailed The Tennessean that he was deeply moved when students showed up to worship with him.

"I felt unity, I'm not alone. Joy. Peace. I also felt very loved; I already felt loved by God, but it was extra meaningful that God poured his love out to me through 500 people who loved me so well," Ellis wrote earlier this week.

"And yes, it made me cry too!"

High school students and faculty were expected to join together this morning (Sept. 16) before classes started to pray and worship, Morrow said in his email.

"Ben was a gift to us all in the most unassuming and life-giving way. Even in the process of his death, he selflessly encouraged and empowered individuals to find life in Jesus," Morrow wrote.

"Now Ben and his Lord are fully together, yet we remain; his family and his students remain and we grieve deeply."

Last week, students and faculty made a spontaneous trip to Ellis' house after learning that he decided to forego any more treatment for cancer.

They arrived, gathered in Ellis' driveway and heard one of his friends read a message that Ellis wrote for the students:

"I love you. I believe now more than ever that God is good and he is with us. I am full of hope, peace and joy. I wish all this for you. Look to Jesus to know, to believe, and to be filled."

More than 400 students started singing hymns, some tearfully, to an open bedroom window.

After a couple of songs, Ellis, weak, bald, wearing a tube for oxygen under his nose, made his way to the window. He smiled, waved and sang along softly.

"Everyone started crying. The football guys, everyone," sophomore Kate Bostick, 16, said.

"It was really shocking to see everyone moved that much. It was one of the most amazing things that's ever happened to me."

Reach Brad Schmitt at 615-259-8384 or on Twitter @bradschmitt.

USA TODAY Network


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