It’s really simple actually… just make people happy. Maybe you have to learn it the hard way. But as long as you learn it, you’re going to make the world a better place. ~ Zach Sobiech
The other day I stumbled upon a song called Clouds, written by Zach Sobiech, a 17-year old boy facing the final months of his life due to a rare form of bone cancer, Osteosarcoma. The song transported me to the final weeks I shared with my mother. I took the time to watch the SoulPancake documentary “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech” and felt the power of his grace for every second of the 22 minute clip. In his own words: “You don’t need to find out you’re dying, to start living.”
Just that day I had been out walking with the kids, and after days of rain, the sun seemed to peak out for a brief moment and blue skies were visible amongst white clouds. I took a picture… I had no idea I would be immersed into musical ‘clouds’ just a few hours later. The next day, when searching for the song to show to the girls, I learned Zach had passed away that morning. I felt a rush of emotion and heartache for the family, the friends, and the girlfriend who are all left to mourn his departure; and I was overcome with a feeling that perhaps grief never really goes away.
In moments of deep heartache, we often hear that time heals, that time makes it easier… but no matter the length of time, time does not wipe away the physical and emotional reality of the loss. The gap that is created where there once was a body, a person, a voice, a touch, a kiss, a tender moment shared, an embrace…
The ache of this void is physical, just as much as it is emotional… and for me, for now, it is ever present. When i reach back to the loss of my father, it remains present to this day. There is an empty space that never goes away. It cannot be replaced or filled by anything else. And it can erupt in unexpected and unanticipated ways, suddenly making me feel vulnerable and alone in that feeling of missing someone who i can no longer touch. Faith in something that is greater than us gives me hope that while the body is absent, the spirit remains alive and present… watching, waiting, and perhaps even participating. My oldest daughter is convinced that when people die they simply become invisible to our eyes. Our human senses can no longer register the pitch at which they exist, but that does not make them any less present. In her very analytical mind, this makes perfect sense.
In my own still very cloudy moments of heartache, there are times when my faith seems elusive to me. But one thing that is very clear is the ability of loss, grief and heartache to transform. I do not know if time heals, but I am certain that time offers opportunity to choose how we respond. Time gives us an opportunity to grow and be inspired, rather than jaded and lost. Time allows us to engage and re-engage into a new reality… aware of the pain, the vulnerability, the physical effort to keep standing tall. And perhaps, time, if we allow it, makes us more authentic and offers us an opportunity to be more grateful, more compassionate, more… more ourselves.
But even in this offering, neither time, nor anything else, removed the tangible space that now exists where once someone precious to us had filled that void. Despite death being a part of our existence, it is a part of our human experience that unravels us to our core.
I once read (or heard) that heartbreak has the beautiful potential of opening our hearts to new possibilities. As painful and as difficult as it is, if we embrace it and allow ourselves to live through it… if we trust in something that is bigger than this moment, while simultaneously remaining fully present in all the moment has to offer… then heartbreak is just another door opening, a door inside our heart… allowing us to expand into more love, more faith, more hope. Though I will tell you, that it is an active choice that needs to be made every single moment of each day… a choice to keep living. And this, this is where the story of Zach Sobiech is such a gift and inspiration… for this is exactly what he did… no matter the outcome, he saw life as a collection of moments that fold into each other. We make them what they are… we have that power.
And as we shift into this transformation, informed so deeply by the pain of grief, we see the blessings that it holds. As I watched Zach’s story in SoulPancake, the words that stuck to me in bold print were said by Zach’s mama…
I think that’s actually one of the blessings of cancer: you come out of denial. And so in doing that, things are better. Life is richer. Everything means more. Beauty is more beautiful. ~ Laura Sobiech (Zach’s mom)
Heartache, pain, loss… it is an opportunity to come out of the illusion, and to embrace the magic this world has to offer. It is the one vivid reminder of all the greatest lessons by the biggest philosophers, teachers, spiritual leaders, religious icons… and at the same time, heartache has the power to take us into the depths of despair on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.
If we lived each moment fully aware of the possibility of loss, perhaps each moment would truly shine in beauty, and we would act with integrity, joy and gratitude in all we did and faced. I am not sure if i am there yet… but i am sure i am trying my best.
At age 14, Zach Sobiech found out he had a rare form of bone cancer. On May 20, 2013, just weeks after his 18th birthday, he passed away. Yet he left behind a legacy in his music, and in his approach to living life just as it is given to us with grace, optimism and compassion… and in doing so, transforming our reality into a blessing. If you are looking for a good dose of inspiration, take 30-minutes to watch, and feel, his beautiful story.
And if you only have a few moments, watch his song… it’s uplifting and honest.
Death is just another thing on the agenda (sort of). Yes, it’s scary. But the only reason that it’s scary is because you don’t know what’s next. Or, if there is a next. So it’s kind of like sitting in the dark. So you can either choose to be freaking out in the dark, afraid of what is out there. Or you can just choose to fall asleep. And just be happy and content with anything. ~ Zach Sobiech