CPA teacher serenaded by students dies after battle with cancer

(Courtesy: Christ Presbyterian Academy)
(Courtesy: Christ Presbyterian Academy)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Christ Presbyterian Academy teacher who was serenaded with worship hymns by more than 400 students passed away Thursday after his battle with cancer.

Ben Ellis was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last December and taught the Bible and Latin at CPA since 2008.

A video of the students gathering on his lawn to sing his favorite hymns has been viewed more than 21 million times. As he peered out of his window last week, Ellis was truly overcome by the presence of his students.

“Wow. It was amazing. In that moment, it felt like I was not alone. We’re all together and not just that group, but everybody I’ve known,” he told News 2.

The moment has touched the hearts of millions of people across the world after the video reached millions.

His wife Shelley showed News 2 the piles of cards and letters he has received.

“They are from elementary students through students that he taught 10 and 15 years ago,” she said.

High school and Middle school students at the academy will meet before school Friday to pray for Ellis. Elementary and Preschool students will be informed of Ellis’ death by their parents discretion.

CPA headmaster Nate Morrow informed parents of Ellis’ passing Friday morning in a letter, which reads in part:

With deep sadness and a very heavy heart, I write to tell you that our beloved Ben Ellis has passed away. Since last December, millions of people around the world have prayed for Ben to be healed of his cancer. Today, Ben entered Heaven fully healed; he is home.

He left these words for us, spoken over the students at his house, and I share them with you to guide us now. He said, “I love you. I believe now more than ever that God is good, and that 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.”

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

And though it is a time to grieve, we are not without hope. We proclaim a God who sent his own Son to the cross to show us there is no fear in death. We will all be together again; this separation is temporary. One day we will spend our eternity with Jesus, with Ben, and the many saints who have gone before us.

Please pray for Shelley and their children – we have the honor of walking with them in the days, months, and years ahead.

Ellis’ visitation and funeral service will be held at Christ Presbyterian Church. His visitation will be Saturday, Sept. 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with his funeral following on Sunday at 3 p.m.

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