Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
April 17, 2022
From Suffering to Hope
Laura Sobiech walked through her son Zach’s osteosarcoma battle with him until he died at age 18 in
2013. In so doing, she marveled at the faith, grace, and love with which he conducted himself through
the entire ordeal. And she still finds joy in Zach’s hit song “Clouds,” which he left behind, inspiring
Laura’s memoir of the same name, as well as the Christopher Award-winning Disney Plus movie “Clouds.” Laura joined me recently on “Christopher Closeup” to share her memories of Zach and the deep, spiritual lessons she learned from him.
Zach’s cancer diagnosis at age 14 was a shock to the whole family, but he responded to it with a maturity beyond his years. Laura said, “He had to go deep in how he felt about things at an early age. And I think he intuitively knew that focusing inward led to despair. Because when we focus inward, we tend to focus on the things we’re losing and our suffering…He learned quickly that when you do that, you get down real fast, that it was a healthier thing spiritually and mentally to focus on others.”
During his time at the Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota, Zach shared rooms with other kids his age and even younger than him, some of whom were worse off. This increased his capacity for empathy and led to feelings of gratitude for the healthy and loving childhood he had experienced with his family. Zach’s illness also led to him discussing deep topics with his Catholic school classmates, questions about what this life is all about and what happens after we die. Though Zach was a fun kid, noted Laura, he could also be contemplative and came to believe that God would accomplish some greater good through his suffering.
Laura explained, “I think the unique part of our very Catholic story was that we got to see God’s economy with suffering and grace rise above the surface… Zach saw this too. When we give our suffering over to God and allow Him to use it as a channel of grace into the world, He can touch lives, He can change lives…I know Zach believed that our suffering, when we offer it up, a lot of times we don’t get to see what God does with it. But I believe it still happens…[Zach also] relied on the sacraments. We would have our parish priest over for the anointing, and especially at the end, when Zach couldn’t even sit up on the couch, he would lay there with his eyes closed and raise his hands for the anointing. He understood the power of those sacraments.”
Zach had a saintliness about him that reflected the ideas we hear about in the Prayer of St. Francis. He was an instrument of peace, faith, and love. Laura misses those qualities in his physical absence, but, as we are reminded as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter, she also believes this is not the end.
She concluded, “I’m his mom, so I pray for his soul. But then I also talk to him and ask him to intercede for me. I try to hit both ends there…But as we look back, it’s incredible that he did somehow bring peace to us, even though he was the one that was having to let go and struggle so much… I can’t see him now. I look forward to seeing him again, and that’s my hope: I will get to see him again.”