A bouquet of sky-blue balloons floated outside the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater on Thursday morning.
Written on the balloons were the words “Up, up, up.”
It was a moving message for the 1,200 mourners who attended Zach Sobiech’s funeral — taken from the lyrics of his hit song “Clouds:” “And we’ll go up, up, up, but I’ll fly a little higher. … It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now.”
The service for Sobiech, who died of cancer Monday at his house in Lakeland, ended with mourners singing “Clouds” from memory. The song has become an Internet sensation, garnering more than 4.8 million hits on YouTube and reaching No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart.
The Rev. Mike Miller said “Clouds” — a song Sobiech wrote to say farewell to family and friends — allowed the Stillwater Area High School senior to “touch people who were in a very dark place.”
“The way he did it was by giving them hope,” Miller said. “He let them see a little bit of the power of Christ. He is the light of the world, and He draws us out of that dark place that this world can be.”
Sobiech, who was 18 when he died, “accomplished more in his very short life then many of us ever do, and he became known around the world for the way he took on this illness,” Miller said. “We’re here today to honor a kid who went down fighting and who didn’t lose. Zach was someone who wanted everyone to know, ‘You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.’ ”
Miller encouraged mourners
to use their talents — like Sobiech did — to “bring a smile to another” and “try and make people happy.”
“Use that talent that God gave us to bring as much grace into the world as we can,” Miller said. “Zach was able to do that not just in our community, but all over the world.”
A sixth-grade teacher from Fredericksburg, Va., emailed Miller on Wednesday night with a message for Sobiech’s family, he said. “Even though Zach is no longer with us, he touched the lives of 80 people today,” the
Zach Sobiech plays guitar as his friend Samantha “Sammy” Brown on Dec. 3, 2012. (Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin)
teacher wrote. “He gives us all hope. Please tell the family ‘thank you’ for inspiring me and others to live a little more patiently, happily and empathetically. He truly did make the world a little better.”
Sobiech’s uncle, Adam Friedrich, read a Bible verse from 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which included a reference to clouds: “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall always be with the Lord.”
Sobiech’s best friend and songwriting partner, Samantha “Sammy” Brown, said although “Clouds” brought Sobiech “a boatload of attention and a taste of the rock star life,” he “handled every ounce of it with grace beyond his years.”
His music resonated with people, she said, because of his sincerity and honesty.
“He had a knack for making the person he was with feel like they were the most important person in the world to him,” she said. “The crazy thing about that is that, in that moment, they probably were. He truly cared for what people had to say; he really listened.”
Brown also spoke of Sobiech’s faith: “Zach really had an incredible amount of wisdom and a deep faith in God and life beyond death. He was always so confident that there was more than life as we knew it, that there was a God, and that He had great plans in mind for us. That strong faith … was visible in him, and it carried him through all the way to the end.”
But don’t think Sobiech didn’t have a goofy side, she said.
“Although Zach was very deep and thoughtful, I think it is very important to say how big of a goofball he was,” she said. “He found great joy — perhaps a little too much joy — in teasing and poking fun at family and friends and probably said things like ‘poopypants’ at least five times a day. He loved playing pranks and saying outrageous things that came from left field. He was a very silly boy.”
The most important lesson Sobiech taught Brown, she said, is that “life is really just beautiful moments one right after the other.”
“He has taught me to see beauty and joy in everything, and although today is very sad, it is also very beautiful,” she said. “Because what’s more beautiful than a congregation of lovely people celebrating the life of a beautiful young man? Life gave my friend Zach a lot — but life gave us Zach, and we can always be thankful for that.”
Story via Pioneer Press