As I do most mornings, I woke up far too early and lay in my bed for a while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed until my body caught up with my mind and together we could roll out of bed. On several friends’ and organizations’ pages, I learned that Zach Sobiech died last night. He was a fellow young guy living with cancer – far younger than me. He was diagnosed at 14 and died at 18 from osteosarcoma, a bone cancer.
Maybe you heard his story already, but I felt compelled to share it because of how much he has moved my life. I learned about him when his now-viral YouTube video shared the online pages of Huffington Post’s Generation Why section with a story I had written.
His doctors had given him a year to live, and he made the decision that he wanted to spend that time with the people that he loved, at home, doing what he loved, which was songwriting and music. His song, “Clouds,” is a bit of a farewell, written knowing that the time he had left was short. Though what he sings about is tragically sad, its upbeat tone and positive lyrical spin demonstrate his zest and appreciation for life, as well as his peace with his impending death.
For anyone to reach that awareness is a beautiful gift, for it to happen for such a young man, even more so. His music video for "Clouds" went viral and a tribute was made back to him with several celebrities who were moved by his story and were filmed singing his song. I loved everything about this humble young man who made it known that the solution to happiness really is so simple.
This morning I watched a documentary about him,"My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech," created by SoulPancake. It is more than worth the 22-minute watch. Settle in and your life will be changed, too. Listen to what he has to say. I cried and cried all through it as I related on so many different levels. I cried because I am sad that he is gone far too young, but I also cried because I was so happy to know that he lived such a full life that he could be proud of, and at peace with, in spite of dying from disease. As they say at the end of the film, he touched so many lives not because he was dying, but because of the way he lived. That is beautiful and something I aspire to every day.
Learning of Zach’s death, and then more intimate details of his life, inspired me to seize my day. As he touches on in the documentary, I too, often live in the extremes: really good days and really bad days. I woke up pain-free and was determined that today would be a good day. I pushed my weak, little body – with barely any red blood cells – to get my kayak out of the shed from under the snow blowers and fertilizers and stand-up paddleboards, into the Jeep and onto the river.
It was the first time it’s been out this season and the first time I had ever kayaked without Craig to help me. Though it took a long time and a lot of effort to get everything together to get that boat in the water, I did it and I was proud. It was 85-degrees and sunny today. The river was so peaceful, and I couldn’t help but think that this total stranger’s spirit had helped to get me there – helped to give me the perspective to even believe that I could. Fear and excuses were washed away today and I just had to go.
The Jeep is full of mud, the shed a mess from my struggle, and I’ll be sore as hell from lifting and dragging the 50-pound kayak, but the self-satisfaction and the peace felt floating with the current was worth every effort.
Not including Zach, three people in my online cancer support world died in as many weeks: two from Hodgkin Lymphoma and another from bone cancer. It happens far too often, but that is my world, brutally aware of the realities of this disease. As much as it’s a punch to the gut every time, it also adds fuel to my own focus to not take this life for granted. I am still going strong and for every added day I’m given, I am so grateful and I try to live it in their honor.
Thanks for the song and your spirit, Zach.