I'm forever inspired by my brave friend, whose battle with cancer went viral
When I was 10 years old, I met a boy named Zach Sobiech. The first time I met Zach, he was truly more of an idea to me than a person. I heard about him when I met this girl named Sammy who would become my best friend to this day. Sammy would talk about the cute boy she had grown up with, who her family went camping with in the summers. When I met him at a day camp for church, he was everything she said he was: cute, nice, energetic, and funny. I teased him for having dark eyelashes despite his blondish hair, playfully calling him, “mascara boy.” Sammy scolded me after and defended him (her still-standing loyalty started early). She told me that in ninth grade, Zach would go to the same school as us.
We were so excited to all be in the same place every day. We dreamed about becoming a close-knit trio like Lizzie, Miranda, and Gordo on the Lizzie McGuire Show. But the reality of ninth grade held quite a plot twist, one that we hadn’t seen on any episode of Lizzie McGuire. Zach had cancer.
Needless to say, it was a hard thing to deal with. We were only 14. That kind of illness was something to worry about for grandparents, not friends. But then a funny thing happened: Zach got famous.
Around wintertime of 2012, Zach wrote and recorded a song called “Clouds.” The song and consequently, Zach’s story, proceeded to go viral. His song is a message of hope despite the scary thing he was facing, and it resonated with people. And before we knew it, it was all over the Internet. It got 11 million hits on YouTube.
Zach and Sammy became bandmates in addition to childhood friends, recording a CD of songs under the name A Firm Handshake. I got to see them play dozens of times, whether at a high school event, in a friend’s basement, or at a performance at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. Even though Zach was working through a difficult time, his songs gave people hope. It was a beautiful thing.
I saw Sammy go to visit Zach at the hospital countless times. I would hear the latest updates from her mouth rather than his caring bridge site, I would hear the two of them singing or joking together, often simultaneously. We were both late to our first class one morning because we were sitting in the school parking lot ,waiting to listen to “Clouds” be played on the radio for the first time.
The day that Zach, died my heart broke for Sammy, and all his friends and family. Watching someone I love so dearly lose one of the most important people in her life was agony. I know that I’ll always treasure those memories of Zach: his baffling card tricks, the time we saw a shooting star together. And it was nice to know that through his music, he had touched so many other people. I cherish the memories I have of Zach performing when he was alive. I know those songs gave comfort to other people struggling, too.
If you ever catch me staring up at the sky (it happens quite often), it just might be that I am admiring the clouds or searching for a shooting star and thinking of Zach. If I trip because looking up means you don’t always see the dip in the sidewalk, it probably means he noticed. I know he would never pass up an opportunity to see me that frazzled.
To learn more or donate to Zach’s fund, visit http://www.childrenscancer.org/zach/
Kelly Moeller is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota working toward a nursing degree. She enjoys sharing her experiences with the serendipity, quirks, grief, and grace that make up living with whoever cares to read about them on her blog (adventuresinblooming.wordpress.com). When she isn’t studying or writing, you can usually find her eating pasta, spending time in the great Minnesota wilderness, or laughing at bad jokes with her friends over a Spanish latte.