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May 8th, 2014
03:26 PM ET

A mother's prayer, a son's death and a song that lives on

Watch Laura Sobiech talk about faith, family and life after her son's death with CNN's Bill Weir at 9 p.m. ET on Friday. 

Opinion by Laura Sobiech, special to CNN

(CNN) - The nurse told us the doctor wanted to speak with us immediately.

The phone rang and my husband picked it up. I pressed my ear against the handle, trying to hear as Rob listened.

“… tumor … it’s bad … hard year ahead,” was all I could hear the doctor say.

It was enough to know life had changed forever.

Zach, my 14-year-old son watched intently from where he sat across the room; he knew something was up.

“What do I tell him?” I wondered as I walked to him, my legs going weak as my mind processed the news.

I wanted so badly to protect him, but I couldn’t protect him from his own body. He needed the truth.

I sat in the chair next to him and said, “You have a tumor.”

Zach held my gaze for a moment then turned his head and closed his eyes as he processed the news.

My heart was breaking. In that moment he looked so small and vulnerable - not like the tall, confident teenager who ran down a basketball court with ease, but like the little boy who once cried through stitches the doctor’s office.

That little boy had quieted his crying, pinched his eyes shut and turned away from me when he realized I couldn’t save him.

After I delivered his tumor diagnosis, Zach and I drove home in silence.

I put a pot of noodles on the stove while Grace, 10, worked on her math homework from the table.

Zach went to his guitar lesson and Rob and I stepped into the living room so he could tell me everything the doctor said: It was a tumor. We would need to do a biopsy, and it could be cancer.

I sank down into a chair.

All sorts of questions and thoughts frenetically fired off in my mind. How could this be? Where did it come from? Would Zach be able to play basketball? How much school would he miss?

Like a punch to the gut, it finally hit me: Zach could die.

My mind became still.

I had a very clear image of God’s face turned to me and I remember thinking: He sees us. He is watching.

And I remember knowing that God was patiently waiting for an answer to a question: Do you trust me?

Did I trust him with my son’s life? Did I trust that he would give Zach, me and our family the grace we would need to get through this? Did I trust the God who allowed cancer?

Then another very clear thought entered into my mind. I am so happy that I got to know Zach - that I got to be Zach’s mom.

My answer was simple: Yes.

Ten days later, in November 2009, Zach was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and deadly form of bone cancer that strikes mostly children and teenagers.

A few days after his first round of chemotherapy, Zach and I were sitting together on the couch in our living room.

“What do you think God has in mind with this whole crazy cancer thing?” I asked.

From the very beginning I knew this was more than just a physical battle, it was a spiritual one.

Zach thought for a moment then answered, “I don’t know, but I think it’s for something big.”

We plowed through the treatment, the surgeries, the therapy, the torture of cancer.

It was grueling, yet somehow comforting to know that we were fighting and there were still weapons in our back pocket.

Until one day they ran out. There weren’t any treatments left.

Once again it was me and God and that same question: Do you trust me?

I didn’t want Zach to suffer! I didn’t want him to die. I pleaded with God to show me what to do, how to pray.

As I wrestled with God, I realized that what I truly hoped for above all else was heaven, and if Zach was ready to enter in at the age of 17, then how blessed I would be as his mother to see him on his way.

I gave Zach over to God. But I asked for something in return.

“If you must take him, if Zach must die, please let it be for something big,” I prayed. “Just one soul changed forever.”

And then “Clouds” rolled into our lives and something big happened.

Soon after Zach was diagnosed with cancer, I asked him if he planned to leave anything behind for his family and friends, something to remember him by.

We talked about whether he wanted to write letters to each of his close friends and family members, but that was the extent of the thought we’d put into it.

A few weeks later, I was straightening up the family room where Zach spent a lot of his time, picking up trash and dishes, when I noticed a crumpled piece of paper with song lyrics.

It was Zach’s first draft of “Clouds.” I thought the song was beautiful and heartbreaking, yet joyful.

I asked him if the song had been put to music, and he let me listen to a recording he’d taped on his phone.

I fought tears as I listened to his soft voice articulate such a deep and painful thing in a way that somehow lifted my spirit.

He had gone from seeing beauty in the midst of suffering to creating it.

He had taken the cancer that threatened to suffocate him and stripped it down until all that was left was hope. He had taken his eyes off of death and lifted them to the heavens, to eternity, to the clouds.

Over the course of the next several weeks, Zach worked with his guitar teacher, who had the equipment, to get the song recorded. We sent it to family and friends who had shared in our struggle.

When our local radio station in Twin Cities, Minnesota, asked if Zach would play a song for the station’s annual fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, he jumped at the opportunity.

While Zach originally sang Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” that day, the producers thought the song’s lyrics were a little too upbeat for the content of his interview.

They asked if Zach would be willing to sing and play a different song. I sent them the recording of “Clouds.” They loved it.

The next thing we knew, “Clouds” had been professionally recorded, with a videographer on hand to capture the session. And then it was on the radio. The local media picked up on our story, running interviews with Zach and the video.

We began receiving media requests from all over the country. Other radio stations began to pick up “Clouds,” and our family got a crash course in how to balance the outside attention with the reality of Zach’s short time left with us.

As the “Clouds” video went viral, and as the song was picked up on radio stations around the globe, the letters started pouring in. 

A lot of it was fan mail that Zach got a big kick out of, but most of it was heartfelt notes from people Zach had inspired to live life … well, better.

Zach had taken charge of the end of his life to show people how to live, and his message was being heard loud and clear.

Last May, Zach died. But his impact - and his song - have lived on.

A week after “Clouds” jumped to No. 1 on both the iTunes and Billboard lists. It has more than 10 million views on YouTube.

Last year, CNN named Zach one of the most extraordinary people of 2013.

And I’m more certain than ever that that one tiny prayer was all it took for God to use my son’s battle with cancer to touch the lives of millions of people.

Laura Sobiech is a wife, mother of four, and author of "Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way." The views expressed in this column belong to Sobiech. 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Content Partner • Death • Faith • Opinion • TV-CNN Tonight

soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Vic

    Happy Mother's Day

    You are a wonderful mother.

    May 11, 2014 at 7:04 am |
  2. joeyy1

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeedE8vH1FQ&w=640&h=390]

    May 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
  3. justpro86

    Very touching story and more proof that God is real and God is true to his word. Prayer does wonders if you can learn how to pray properly. God blessed this little boy and now he is with God day in and day out. Also God touched these people by allowing something big and joyful to happen. God is real and God is hope. There is POWER IN PRAYER INDEED!

    May 9, 2014 at 9:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      It is a very touching story. The rest of your post is jibberish

      May 10, 2014 at 6:09 am |
      • justpro86

        True Jibberish at that... God blessed that little boys parents as he passed on... The Power of Prayer is real

        May 10, 2014 at 11:23 pm |
        • sam stone

          there may be power in prayer, but i suspect that it is the prayer itself, not the object of it.

          i suspect that it is much like the power of meditation, filling the blood with endorphins

          May 11, 2014 at 7:23 am |
      • awanderingscot

        here again to attack Christians and their faith Sam Stoned? I wonder if your Christian family knows you are here attacking their Christian brothers and sisters in the faith. I wonder if they know you are setting yourself up as judge of who is a real Christian and who is not. and what basis do you have for this since you very obviously don't believe in God much less the Bible. You are a coward here to anonymously attacking people who have a faith. Why don't you put the pipe down now skinhead and go down to the street corner and attack Christians there, you won't since you have no courage.

        May 11, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • midwest rail

          Your selective outrage is telling. Where are your admonitions against your fellow Christians when they post deliberate falsehoods ?

          May 11, 2014 at 11:47 am |
        • sam stone

          really, scottie? perhaps you should ask corn pone, or gopher, or rainy fuhrersucker.....they are the ones who are always blathering on about how they know who the real christians are

          i attack trolls and pompous bigots

          if that bothers you, too fvcking bad

          May 11, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
        • sam stone

          i am a coward?

          as opposed to the christians who feel they deserve hell, but are too whiney to take their punishments?

          May 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          Who appointed you to do this Sam Stoned? Was it the God you don't believe in? So basically you are a self-righteous hypocrite going around attacking those you don't feel are real Christians right?

          May 14, 2014 at 8:57 am |
        • awanderingscot

          great, another unrepentant unregenerate bubbles up from the primordial ooze.

          May 14, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          "TruthPrevails"

          'fear of God is the beginning of wisdom' and you haven't even begun. you are unable to have an intelligent conversation with others because you are convinced that your god of junk science is mightier than my God the creator of the universe and all the precepts and facts of real science. you haven't proven anything except how ignorant you really are.

          May 14, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
    • saggyroy

      Yes it is always a sad story when someone suffers, and I don't like it when people suffer. But in response the main content of your post, I think that if he had lived it would "prove god" and the power of prayer, but if he lived it would also "prove god" and the power of prayer. There is always an excuse.

      May 10, 2014 at 7:07 am |
  4. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    By Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor:

    In the middle of the merry nature we see, how a paralyzed child is driven in a wheelchair. Somebody, who still has a heart, which is not insensible to his neighbour, he will realize in that moment that something is wrong with our world, that the world, in which such a torture and sadness is possible, cannot be the genuine creation of God. Something anti-divine must have befallen the world. The world has apostated from her genesis. Destroying powers have seized rule in this world.

    Only in a world having become godless, there is malady. Because the world suffers from God, therefore there are sick people. Solely a world, which would be secure in God, a delivered world, would be without any malady. In the Bible we encounter a strange sentence: “12 And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease [was] exceeding [great]: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” (2. Chron. 16, 12). It is about a devout man there, which the Bible else gives high praise for his zeal, regarding God’s matter. But this man, despite his devoutness, thought very modern, so that he strictly distinguished between matters of religion, in which someone calls on God, and the earthly matters, in which someone asks for help at earthly bodies. Diseases, particularly physical diseases are earthly matters with earthly causes and earthly cures. Consequently diseases are matters of physicians, but not of God. How could someone be allowed to bother God, the Lord of the world, with his small physical maladies? God has other concerns.

    That is thought pretty reasonable and maybe even religious. But it is wrong. Surely, diseases have their earthly causes and earthly cures. But with that is stated not at all everything and not the crucial thing about the essence of disease. For sure, the invalid shall call on a physician. But the most important thing is not done solely with that, and is not realized. Behind the earthly causes and cures there are supernatural causes and supernatural cures of the disease. As long as someone passes by thereon, someone lives, ignoring his disease, and doesn’t realize its essence. Its blessing or curse remain unrecognized.

    The disease belongs to God in a special way. The Bible doesn’t blame a man for calling on a physician, when he is sick, but for not calling also on God. Not by chance, Christ lived noticeably close by the invalids, not by chance, blind man, paralytics, deaf-mutes, lepers, lunatics were irresistibly attracted by him and seeked his community. Why didn’t Christ send them to the physician? Surely not, in order to damage the reputation of the physicians or to present his own skills and suggestiv powers, but in order to make clear that God and malady and that Christ and invalids belong strongly together.

    Christ wants to be the real physician of the invalids. “I am the Lord, your physician!” (Exodus 15, 26). God says that, Christ says that. The Creator and Deliverer of the world wants to be the physician of the invalid. Do we want to spurn this offer, after we have accepted so many less offers with more or less success?

    One, who merely intuits the connection between God and malady, one, who takes serious the unexpected offer, can get a pointer to the sin of the human beings, to the destruction of the community of the creatures with their Creator.

    Here are the supernatural reasons and abysses of the malady. It is the sin of the world and it is my personal sin, I get reminded. My disease doesn’t have to be the consequence of or the punishment for a certain sin, which I had to accuse myself of, that may happen, but it is not necessaryly the case. Yet every disease will let me look into the depth of the sin of the world and the depth of my personal godlessness. This look drives me to God. When I looked into the abyss (of my sin), I don’t first ask for redemption of this or that malady, but I will confess my longly hidden guilt in the face of God. The physical malady wants to show me that my actual malady goes much deeper, so deep that no earthly physician can cure it, because my actual disease is my sin. Not merely my body, my nerves, my temper is sick, but my whole essence, my heart is sick, sick by disbelieve, by fear, by the godlessness of my life. And which healthy man doesn’t suffer from that furtive and at the same time eerie disease?

    Now I know that I can be helped, if my whole essence becomes healthy, safe and new. How can that happen? The answer is very simple and yet touches the ultimate depth of our life: by true private confession and by divine forgiveness of all my sins. That may seem to be a strange turn and solution of this question for some people, but yet only for someone, who has not yet experienced the cure of the whole man by confession and forgiveness. What is confession? To open up oneself with all one’s sins, weaknesses, vices, maladies to Jesus Christ and to give him the whole heart without any reservation, according to his command. That is not easy and may seem to us harder than a dangerous surgery. Normally, the most of us will need a fraternal helper for that, who assists us at confession, may it be the pastor holding an ecclesiastical office, may it be any member of the congregation, who knows more about Christ than I. What is forgiveness? Extinction of all my whole hopeless, messy, failed past (of which maybe only I know) by God’s decree and by the present of a new and happy beginning of my life.

    Who can give me such a new beginning? Nobody else than solely the crucified and living Jesus Christ, who himself experienced the hopelessness of life on himself and overcame it in the communion of God. He is the sole physician, who knows my deepest malady, who himself has beared it. He is the saviour, who can cure heart, soul and body.

    How is forgivness of sins connected with physical cure? More than the most people intuit. Of course it is a mysterious connection. But isn’t it at least so much comprehensible, that a man, who got again a happy and released heart, will get rid of some physical complaint? The body often becomes ill, because it is not ruled, because it has become its own Lord. But now the body has get again his right Lord, who rules it. The body is no longer the Lord. It is only tool, even more than that, it has become “temple of the Holy Spirit”. There are many maladies, which are not visibly subdued and eradicated by the assurance of forgiveness. But the hidden connection of received forgiveness and physical cure can become visible in such a way that medical limits are bursted, and the physicians face a mystery. One is sure: The faith is a source for cure like the disbelief is a source for destruction and sickness of the body and the soul.

    When Christ calls himself the physician of the invalid, then the divine mercy shines upon every invalid. The sick one belongs to God. At him God wants to materialize his salvation. In the ill brother we encounter God’s mercy, who is the physician of the invalid in Jesus Christ. The sick man wants cure, but Christ gives him more: Salvation.

    Originator of the above sermon: Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in my eyes, he is a king)

    May 9, 2014 at 8:57 am |
    • timetravelerfrom2121

      Some white kid in a first world country that's paralyzed is not considered "torture and sadness".

      I don't know what the standard of living for cripples is in Germany, but this is NOT an eminent disaster of catastrophic proportions...it's the sort of biological mutations/diseases that happens when a species begins to overpopulate.

      Get over yourself, nobody likes Germany anyway.

      May 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
  5. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Very touching!

    I hope that Zach has gone to the heavens. I hope that Zach has not understood the Roman Catholic doctrine of works righteousness, but simply tried to live a life of love and righteousness on the basis of his sacramental baptism. I hope Zach understood a little that through baptism we get connected with the releasing power of Jesus death and resurrection, and become able to overcome our old selfish nature. I hope that he always felt too sinful to participate in Catholic Eucharist. I hope that in that struggle he was able to grasp Jesus' sacrifice as an atonement for his sins. Free grace, but costly grace.

    RHB manifests himself as an outrageous bigot again, one may claim, but that is not the case. I do not condemn Catholics, and also Luther did not condemn Catholics. Though Luther rejected the Catholic doctrine he teached that nevertheless single Catholics (a small number) have a chance to get into heaven. These are the very simpleminded Catholics which don't grasp the evil trickery of the Catholic doctrine, and simply think: "Through baptism I am a Christian or believer in Jesus; I will practice love and righteousnes through Jesus' power day by day!"

    I wish that Zach was an extremly simpleminded Catholic who did not understand the depths of Satan.

    Concerning diseases:

    God can still cure today. When we confess our sins to a Christian brother or a clergy then it is possible that together with forgiveness God gives us cure. That is according to Bonhoeffer, the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The basic cause of all our diseases, depression, death, misfortune, etc. is our sinfulness. We are sinners by nature. God can use a disease to educate or to chastise us so that our soul may be saved, and our body be cured when we repent seriously, and believe that a clergy or Christian brother is allowed to absolve us in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit.

    I don't claim that we should not call for ordinary physicians, and I don't claim that Zach was not ready to repent because he was not cured of his cancer. God knows all things.

    I only suggest that somebody who has got a severe illness should consider the possibility that God educates him or her. One must know oneself.

    In order to make spiritual experiences we must have entered through the gate of the kingdom of God which is sacramental baptism. Requirements for sacramental baptism are repentance and faith in Jesus (accepting the gospel as true).

    May 9, 2014 at 7:01 am |
    • sam stone

      tell us, rainy fuhrersucker, does posting the same drivel twice in a row make it any less driivel?

      May 9, 2014 at 7:30 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        You are not able to write any meaningful text. Shame on you!

        May 9, 2014 at 7:32 am |
        • sam stone

          And do you think posting that drivel twice makes it more meaningful?

          Time to go meet jeebus, d-bag

          May 9, 2014 at 9:53 am |
        • awanderingscot

          he's a disrespectful irreverent unregenerate who trolls Christian blogs to bait and insult Christians. there millions of good honest God-fearing Christians in America but this guy doesn't know it or doesn't care.

          May 9, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          No, I only see some difficulties to be a Catholic, and to believe in Jesus at the same time. It may be possible in a small number of cases.

          May 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
        • sam stone

          degenerate?

          you know nothing about me you diseased d-bag

          i happen to have many good christians in my family who i love and respect

          i am ridiculing the arrogance of punks like rainy, and you, and corn pone, and gopher

          if that bothers you, too fvcking bad

          suck a 12 gauge and go meet jeebus

          May 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
        • workingcopy12

          "I happen to have many good christians in my family who i love and respect" Except when your insulting them by referring to "jeebus" right? You have every right to question our beliefs. Debate us as you see fit. You should feel free to insult us as often as you wish (it won't keep us up at night), but next time you want to tell us what a loving and respectful family man you are, remember your hypocrisy.

          May 9, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          Rainer, that comment of mine was for Sam Stoned, not you. And i agree with you on Catholicism, it is permeated with the yeast of idolatry.

          May 9, 2014 at 10:47 pm |
        • sam stone

          it is a belief blog, not a christian blog, scottie

          May 10, 2014 at 6:12 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          " Christian blogs "

          Sorry but could you show us where it is stated that this is a Christian blog? Belief encompassses many things, not just your version.

          May 10, 2014 at 7:12 am |
        • sam stone

          i do no such thing to christians i know in real life, workingcopy

          i do this to pompous and arrogant blog christians who cannot have a rational discussion if their lives depended on it

          here is a short summary

          rainy fuhrersucker: isolate gays and get them far away from society, and i have the CORRECT view of the bible

          gopher: death is unnatural and i have the CORRECT view of the bible

          corn pone: the jews deserverd the holocaust, i want to deny gays equal rights andi have the CORRECT view of the bible

          starting to see a trend there, WC?

          May 10, 2014 at 8:20 am |
        • sam stone

          also, those i mentioned are not interested in debate, they are interested in preaching. this is not really respectful to those they are preaching to (after all, what the fvck makes them think we care about their preaching if they have the logic of a dense 7 year old?)

          May 10, 2014 at 8:26 am |
      • awanderingscot

        Rainer posted 2 different things there you inbred. learn how to read.

        May 9, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
        • sam stone

          suck a 12 gauge

          May 10, 2014 at 6:13 am |
        • sam stone

          He posted the same thing at 6:56 and 7:01.

          Jeebus is waiting for you

          May 10, 2014 at 6:16 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Too funny, the one who is too uneducated to accept Evolution as fact and fails to comprehend what a Scientific Theory is calling another person inbred! You best look in a mirror and then you'll see exactly who the inbred freak is!

          May 10, 2014 at 7:09 am |
        • Doris

          Rainy frequently posts the same thing two or three times in close proximity as he did here dufus.

          May 10, 2014 at 11:21 am |
      • awanderingscot

        Sam, does your Christian family know you are on these blogs attacking Christians? their faith?

        May 10, 2014 at 7:14 am |
        • sam stone

          if the pious blog christians would state it as faith, i would have no issue with them

          instead, the present it as fact and then preach based on their weak logic

          the answer to the question is no

          they do know i have a different view than they do, though

          May 10, 2014 at 8:29 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Does your family know that you don't follow the Golden Rule? Most of us have Christian family and friends and most of those people don't come across as uneducated bigoted fools-they know the Golden Rule and they respect it.

          May 10, 2014 at 8:32 am |
        • awanderingscot

          "Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: 'When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.' – Ezekiel 33:2-6 – (the Lord requires us to warn unregenerates such as Sam Stoned and "TruthPrevails". Neither of you know anything about God's will, the 'golden rule', or scripture; you only look up and quote passages incorrectly and out of context in order to attack Christians, this because you are hateful children of the devil)

          May 11, 2014 at 9:49 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. for I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God". – Acts 20:26-27, NKJV (the "whole counsel of God" Paul speaks of includes warning those who reject Him they will experience His wrath, and they have never seen a cup poured out on them like they will experience if they do not repent.)

          May 11, 2014 at 9:58 pm |
  6. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    Very touching!

    I hope that Zach has gone to the heavens. I hope that Zach has not understood the Roman Catholic doctrine of works righteousness, but simply tried to live a life of love and righteousness on the basis of his sacramental baptism. I hope Zach understood a little that through baptism we get connected with the releasing power of Jesus death and resurrection, and become able to overcome our old selfish nature. I hope that he always felt too sinful to participate in Catholic Eucharist. I hope that in that struggle he was able to grasp Jesus' sacrifice as an atonement for his sins. Free grace, but costly grace.

    RHB manifests himself as an outrageous bigot again, one may claim, but that is not the case. I do not condemn Catholics, and also Luther did not condemn Catholics. Though Luther rejected the Catholic doctrine he teached that nevertheless single Catholics (a small number) have a chance to get into heaven. These are the very simpleminded Catholics which don't grasp the evil trickery of the Catholic doctrine, and simply think: "Through baptism I am a Christian or believer in Jesus; I will practice love and righteousnes through Jesus' power day by day!"

    I wish that Zach was an extremly simpleminded Catholic who did not understand the depths of Satan.

    Concerning diseases:

    God can still cure today. When we confess our sins to a Christian brother or a clergy then it is possible that together with forgiveness God gives us cure. That is according to Bonhoeffer, the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The basic cause of all our diseases, depression, death, misfortune, etc. is our sinfulness. We are sinners by nature. God can use a disease to educate or to chastise us so that our soul may be saved, and our body be cured when we repent seriously, and believe that a clergy or Christian brother is allowed to absolve us in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy spirit.

    I don't claim that we should not call for ordinary physicians, and I don't claim that Zach was not ready to repent because he was not cured of his cancer. God knows all things.

    I only suggest that somebody who has got a severe illness should consider the possibility that God educates him or her. One must know oneself.

    I order to make spiritual experiences we must have entered through the gate of the kingdom of God which is sacramental baptism. Requirement for sacramental baptism are repentance and faith in Jesus (accepting the gospel as true).

    May 9, 2014 at 6:56 am |
  7. ddeevviinn

    Dignity and grace in the face of death, an example to emulate.

    Kudos to all those who checked their ideologies at the door on this one.

    May 9, 2014 at 1:25 am |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    Well done Zach. A fine legacy to leave behind.

    May 8, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
  9. flightfromfrostmtn

    Quite a legacy – this is how humanity should be:)

    May 8, 2014 at 8:41 pm |
  10. MidwestKen

    A testament to the strength of human nature.

    Peace.

    May 8, 2014 at 7:38 pm |
  11. bostontola

    Very touching story, loving family and a great kid. I'm glad his song provided some solace.

    May 8, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
  12. Lee

    And, hope continues to live on through the song that Zach wrote, also there is the hope and assurance for Zach's mom that one day she will be reunited with her son....

    God bless all those souls that selflessly give of themselves in spite of their own hardships in life to better the lives of others and a shout out to the likes of Nick Vujicic!

    May 8, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Lee, her son has passed on. Hope is lost and she will never see him again. It is very sad.

      May 8, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
    • Lee

      How can you be so sure that death is the ultimate end to all life?

      A Christian has an awesome promise that one day he/she will be reunited with his/her loved one, on the other side, a Christian has that powerful hope/promise that one day they WILL meet with their loved one.

      May 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
      • Lee

        Also, this life is temporal, is not permanent. One day all mortals will die and meet with their maker to give account for all that was done by them on planet earth.

        We should all be prepared to give an account for ourselves.

        May 8, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          No Lee, we will all die and rot like every other living thing on this planet. There is nothing more even if you really really hope and wish it to be true.

          May 8, 2014 at 6:16 pm |
        • believerfred

          Really?
          How is it you know something science and Jesus did not know?

          May 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Well if neither one knows it must be baffling. Are you baffled by common sense?

          May 8, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
        • believerfred

          Concert in an Egg
          That "really" was for youl

          May 8, 2014 at 6:37 pm |
        • believerfred

          Concert
          It is not common given 98 of mankind since history was recorded believed otherwise.

          May 8, 2014 at 6:38 pm |
        • believerfred

          Concert
          We may not agree on God but you must admit your beliefs are not common.

          May 8, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          My beliefs are very far from common indeed.

          May 8, 2014 at 6:43 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          That came out kind of douchey fred, sorry. Let me try that again.

          There will be a huge ROI for all the work atheists and SBNRs are doing today. It is not so lopsided as you would pretend.

          May 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
        • believerfred

          Concert in an Egg
          Hope is something that at a minimum comes in handy and when that hope is an object outside of yourself and greater than life itself it provides a permanence not shaken by the latest discovery or latest threat. Why dash any hope even if it does not fit your belief

          May 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm |
        • believerfred

          Concert in an Egg
          What you fail to understand is that it was the God of Israel not God that was incomprehensible before the gods of other nations. They feared Israel because God was with them as they did not know God. God remains incomprehensible today while God is not seen in the people. You neither know God nor see the reflection of God in those you meet. This is why you can say what you say without fear or conscious.

          May 8, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
        • sam stone

          what evidence do you have of this afterlife?

          May 8, 2014 at 7:19 pm |
        • believerfred

          sam stone
          Non existence is not logical and only existence is known and knowable. I.e. there is only life

          May 8, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
        • sam stone

          nonsense, fred.

          there is also death

          May 8, 2014 at 8:05 pm |
        • sam stone

          fred: what is illogical is the concept of life after death

          May 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
        • believerfred

          Sam stone
          Have you experienced death? There is only evidence of organic death. You believe that is all there is to life yet you know life is more. When a child dies loss is more than the organic

          May 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
        • sam stone

          "You believe that is all there is to life yet you know life is more."

          Again, another believer who cannot distinguish between knowledge and belief

          "When a child dies loss is more than the organic"

          Of course it is. It is emotional. We are social animals

          May 8, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
        • sam stone

          "Have you experienced death?"

          No, Fred, I have not

          Have you?

          May 9, 2014 at 7:32 am |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Please, let's not use this family's personal tragedy to try to score points on behalf of arguments over whether or not there are God(s).

        There will be plenty more topics where, abstracted from a single, identified family's very personal story, this blog's most vitriolic topic can be discussed.

        May 8, 2014 at 9:17 pm |
        • Lee

          Agreed.

          Whatever your views may be about the afterlife, at least honor his life and his spirit now that he has died. Skirmishing over someone's grave is inappropriate and disrespectful.

          May 9, 2014 at 8:02 am |
        • Lee

          Just to avoid confusion, I should add that I'm a different Lee than the one whose comments started this particular conversation.

          May 9, 2014 at 8:04 am |
      • awanderingscot

        no doubt you are correct Lee. " But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. " – 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – We "fall asleep" because we will wake up, unlike others "who have no hope". They will perish due to their wicked unbelief.

        May 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bears the image of the heavenly Man. – 1 Corinthians 15:44-49

          May 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
  13. Alias

    I know I'm biased, but I can't get past the immorality of religion using such a tragedy to try to gain support.

    May 8, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
    • awanderingscot

      it's about saving souls, not a popularity contest or some other stupid prideful endeavor.

      May 9, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
  14. CNN Belief Blog EditorCNN

    Thanks for your comments, guys. Heartening to see such compassionate readers and happy to see you here.

    best,
    Daniel

    May 8, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
    • Lee

      Thanks for posting this and bringing it to our attention. It's an inspiring story!

      I happen to believe that Zach has simply moved on to a better place. However, regardless of one's beliefs about the afterlife or lack thereof, isn't the power of a human life what we choose to do with it while we have it, however long or short it may be? Zack has left behind a beautiful legacy for those of us who are still living. And his actions in his final years led to the creation of a substantial fund that will help others who are afflicted with the type of cancer that took his life.

      This is much more than a feel-good story. It goes even beyond hopes and beliefs. It's the story of someone using his remaining days on earth to bring good to others even after he himself would no longer be here to benefit from it. Can we all, regardless of our beliefs or lack thereof, at least celebrate Zack's uniquely human spirit as he faced his own death?

      May 9, 2014 at 8:20 am |
    • Vic

      Thank you, sir.

      May 11, 2014 at 7:12 am |
  15. Vic

    God bless his soul.

    2 Corinthians 1:3-4
    "3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (NASB}

    Revelation 21:4
    "4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (NASB)

    God bless you.

    May 8, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
  16. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Childhood cancer is a heart breaking thing.

    May 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      There are so many mothers and fathers like Laura Sobiech who have to confront this dreadful reality.

      That she can find some solace in her son's legacy with his song is uplifting but it doesn't change her reality that her son is gone too soon.

      May 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
    • igaftr

      I think all can agree, that ALL cancer sucks, and is especially sad when it is a child.

      May 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm |

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.