Laura Sobiech | An Uncanny Hope in the Face of Death
While faced with the imminent death of her son, Laura Sobiech discovered the key to living. It has only been a little over a year since Laura Sobiech’s son, Zach, succumbed to Osteosarcoma, but the life that he lived continues to resonate and inspire the world. It’s also the reason Laura chose to write Fly a Little Higher—a moving and heartfelt memoir less about her son’s death, and more about the hope he spread while he lived. Zach was only 14 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis rocked the Sobiech family to their core, but they rallied around Zach and remained grounded in their faith in God. But when Zach’s condition deteriorated and all medical treatment options had been exhausted the inevitable hit the family like a brick wall—Zach was going to die…soon. Although the thought and finality of his death was overwhelming and devastating to say the least, Laura quietly whispered a small prayer that would ultimately yield a big answer.
She simply asked God, “If you choose to take Zach then please let it be for something big.” God answered in a way that even Laura couldn’t have imagined. Before Zach’s, death he was afforded tremendous opportunities. In fact, Zach seemed to have an uncanny knack of attracting people to him. In fact Zach seemed to have an uncanny knack of attracting people to him. His song (he was a musician at heart) “Clouds” became an iTunes best seller and has been viewed more than 10 million times. His life and struggle was chronicled in a documentary that has literally touched lives around the world and he was even able to perform on stages that most professional musicians can only pine after.
However, it was the lesson of living while dying that created the greatest hope-fueled firestorm and spread the farthest. Laura says Fly a Little Higher is not a story about a kid who dies; rather it’s a story about a kid who lives and brings hope to the world. In an age where it seems hope has died and pessimism abounds, the idea of lifting the spirit of someone else, if only just one other person, was reason enough for Laura to boldly and publicly share the intimate details of her family’s private struggle. “It’s a story of hope that shouldn’t be hopeful. That’s what Zach’s life was; a kid who had no hope of surviving a disease, who somehow brought hope into the world. I’m just hoping to build upon what Zach did in his life. We all hunger for the very same thing. We all want hope and love.” Laura says.
The hope that Laura describes is two-fold. It’s a hope of living and a hope of a greater life after death. Although the circumstances were not ideal, the family was given the opportunity to engage their faith in a new context. It really revealed a strength they never knew they had. It was strength to live through tribulation. It’s when she says the rubber hits the road, faith takes center stage and you just go through it. You have to. Certain death has a way of shining a light on everything in life. Even when the cancer spread and the end drew closer, Laura and her family discovered the joy of living. “On the outside looking in on a family like ours the tendency is to say I could never do that, but the fact is that you have to. When you come out of denial you realize that you are actually doing this and actually living and loving life and learning to live in the moment and not allowing what’s going to happen in the future to squash the joy of the moment. When you allow that [fear] to happen you will lose that joy because you are allowing something that’s not there yet to snatch it away. We learned to live that way. The beautiful moments of life will pop like a bright color against black and becomes so much more intense because of the backdrop of death.” Each day that they celebrated life God somehow illuminated the path toward death and deflated the air in its sting.
Laura witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of Zach’s illness. She faced every test and trial he endured right by his side and like any other mother she would have gladly taken his pain, but she came to realize and understand why it had to be Zach. God chose Zach because he had hot-wired Zach with the compassion, attitude and grace necessary for the trial. “I once asked Zach are you ever angry that you got cancer and he said ‘if somebody has to have cancer then I’m glad it’s me because I would have such a hard time watching someone else go through this.’” Laura realized it was a typical answer from her always compassionate and empathetic child. It was beginning to make sense. God knew who he could trust to handle such an arduous and weighted mission. It’s that very type of compassion that Laura believes has attracted so many people and brought contentment and wholeness to their lives. The joy and peace that Laura now exudes is certainly not due to the loss of her son, rather it’s the hope that he left behind and the lives he ultimately changed.
“How blessed am I that I get to share the story of my amazing son with the world. I get to put my energy now on this side of death. It’s such a huge blessing. I don’t know how life would be if I just had to go on living like we were before. So in a way this book and sharing our story has been a huge blessing.”
Laura often speaks at churches and other organizations about the spiritual part of her journey and the lessons she learned. She is committed to bringing awareness to Osteosarcoma and children’s cancer research.