"Okay, Lord, you can have him. But if he must die, I want it to be for something big. I want someone's life to be changed forever."
This is what Laura Sobiech prayed when she found out her seventeen-year-old son had only one year to live. With this desperate prayer, she released her son to God's will.
At that point, Zach Sobiech was just another teenager battling cancer. When his mother told him to think about writing good-bye letters to family and friends, he decided instead to write songs. One of them, "Clouds," captured hearts and changed not one life but millions, making him an international sensation.
But Zach's story is not just about music. It's a testament to what can happen when you live as if each day might be your last. It's a story about the human spirit. It's about how God used a dying boy from a small town in Minnesota to touch the hearts of millions—including top executives in the music industry, major music artists, news anchors, talk show hosts, actors, priests and pastors, and school children across the globe.
Zach once said, "I want to be known as the kid who went down fighting, and didn't really lose." Fly a Little Higher is about how God used Zach to do something big.
Zach's life was cut short, but his hope and joy will live on in his story for years to come.
Zach’s second birthday party. He is opening a pack of toddler-sized sports balls.
He was literally shaking with excitement when he saw what was in the package – he couldn’t getting the wrapping paper off fast enough!
Grace and Zach sitting on the window sill. Zach always had Grace laughing, even when she would cry for everyone else. Zach told me that he had this picture in mind when he wrote the song “For My Grace.”
Halloween in 2002. Zach dressed as a ninja and Sammy as a beauty queen. Zach spent his day “protecting” Sammy. Sammy talked about this day when she delivered the eulogy at Zach’s funeral.
Zach and Sammy gazing at the stars as they sit by the campfire. They talked about the big stuff in life around those fires and many of the things they discussed became topics of future songs.
After five months of lessons, Zach and Sammy collaborated for the first time.
Alli and Zach walking across Grandma and Grandpa Friedrich’s lawn.
The two of them would go for a run a few weeks after this photo was taken and Zach would start to feel pain in his left hip. He probably had cancer when this photo was taken, but we just wouldn’t know it for another four months.
We celebrated Christmas early because we thought Zach would have to be in the hospital. Turned out his counts were too low, so we celebrated Christmas twice that year.
Zach post tumor resection/hip replacement surgery. He was only in the hospital for four days before heading home.
Once he recovered, Zach continued on for another five months of chemotherapy.
Rob helping Zach get ready for Confirmation. He’d been in the hospital for a few days, was feeling quite sick and would have to carry a backpack of fluids with him, but he still made it to the cathedral on time.
Zach spent hours of his time in the hospital researching guitars, drums and other instruments and equipment for his Make-A-Wish gift. He was so excited to get everything set up and try it all out.
In the end, the instrument that he loved most was the acoustic guitar.
Grace, Alli, Zach and Sam on the beach in Mexico. It could be tricky scheduling trips like this. We couldn’t plan too far ahead because we never knew what life would be like just a few months down the road.
Zach sporting a new hairdo with his sisters. Cancer was back again and Zach would need to start another aggressive chemotherapy treatment, so the hair needed to come off. We thought we’d have a little fun with it, though,
I have to admit, while I was laughing on the outside but sobbing on the inside.
Zach making the best of his time in the hospital for yet another infusion.
Zach visited Amy a few days after a huge benefit was held for him and at which Amy danced the night away. On the way home from the benefit, Amy didn’t feel well and ended up in the hospital to have her appendix removed.
Zach and Mitch thought they would cheer her up by bringing blue Forever Lazy suits.
The Zach Sobiech Benefit was held in November, 2011. Hundreds of people turned out to support Zach and our family. It was another example of the joy and grace we felt throughout our battle with cancer.
Zach, his friend, Mitch, and his brother, Sam, at the Colosseum in Rome. We decided to take the kids to Europe since Zach was unable to attend World Youth Day the previous summer with his church youth group. He had planned to go but cancer came back.
Zach standing at the grotto in Lourdes, France, another stop on our European trip. We found peace in Lourdes.
We ended our trip in Paris. I noticed as we walked the streets of Paris that Zach’s limp was more pronounced. He told me that his hip was really hurting again. We would find out a few weeks later that the cancer had spread to his pelvis and surrounding tissue.
Zach and Sammy began recording songs in October 2012. They had a natural groove they would fall into when songwriting and performing. They intuitively understood each other.
December 6, 2010 at The KS95 Radiothon for Kids. This was the first time “Clouds” was played on the air. We were thrilled to be there to help raise money for Children’s Cancer Research Fund. It was an exciting time that we thought would be the summit of Zach’s musical career. We had no idea this was just the beginning.
Zach on stage at the Stillwater Area High School Coffee House event. It was the day after “Clouds” debuted on radio and Zach was in his element. He took the opportunity to dedicate the performance to his girlfriend, Amy.
Zach and Amy dancing at Zach’s Party, a celebration we held in December 2012 just to have fun and celebrate Zach’s life. “Clouds” had just started making an impact.
Zach signing the paperwork at BMI in New York City. The folks at BMI treated Zach like a superstar. It is a treasured memory.
Zach was starting to get worn out and he was tired of the long hard winter and wanted to feel summer one last time. Dan Seeman from KS95 offered to take him, Amy and Rob to Ft. Meyers Florida for a few days. Zach came home refreshed and happy.
A family photo of our last Easter together. We were so happy to have Alli’s fiancé, Collin, come stay with us for a few days. He is in the Navy and was stationed in Virginia. It was the last time he got to spend time with Zach.
Zach, Amy, Alli, Sam and Dan, Cyndy and Clare Seeman on Zach’s 18th birthday. Dan managed to find a whole tub of Playdough ice cream. The flavor was a favorite of Zach and Sammy’s, who buy several cones whenever we would visit the campground where our families would stay each Labor Day weekend. It was the perfect birthday gift.
Zach and Amy before the prom. Zach hadn’t asked Amy to the prom until just a few weeks prior. He hadn’t wanted to ask her to go if he wasn’t sure he would still be here.
It was tough, he was extremely sick by this point, but they had a wonderful evening together and didn’t get home until almost midnight!
Zach’s grave marker with a reflection of Sammy holding the guitar that Zach used in the Sandcastles video. Rob and I gave the guitar to Sammy for her high school graduation.
In September of 2013, our family and few of Zach’s friends presented the first check from the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund to the University of Minnesota at a Gopher’s football game. All of the proceeds from “Clouds” go to Zach’s fund.
The Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund supports leading-edge research to find
out why children get this rare cancer, and to discover life-saving treatments.
To learn more or to make a donation, please visit ChildrensCancer.org/Zach