Fly a Little Higher: The story that keeps on giving

December 5, 2014

Embracing Life

Sobiech family

Sobiech family

I’ve been known to pitch a few books into the trash because they were rubbish. Many were forgotten as soon as I’d turned the last page. Some stories would hover over me for a while, but then drift away. Only a few have become my constant companions and Fly a Little Higher by Laura Sobiech is one such literary gem. It’s the story of hope; how God answered a mom’s small prayer in a big way.

As you might recall, Laura is the mother to Zach Sobiech, singer and songwriter of “Clouds.”  Zach wrote this song to say farewell to friends and family as he was suffering from terminal osteosarcoma. The iTunes and YouTube sensation hit the radio waves about this time two years ago, a few months before Zach succumbed to his bone cancer.

His mother’s lovely memoir profoundly changed my “mommy attitude” and taught me so much as it glided me through each chapter. It has helped me circumnavigate the difficult times I tend to encounter when a bulk of our nine kids is home for the summer. You see, for whatever reason June, July and August have been routinely challenging. We’ve dealt with my parents’ divorce, Aunt Angie’s brain surgery, Grandpa Dan’s aneurysm, the loss of dear friends, and nitpicking lice out of six little heads. The summer of 2013, one of our little twins suffered with Lyme disease. So, when we sailed into Memorial Day this year I started to get antsy and grouchy.

But then I picked up Laura’s book at the Stillwater bookstore and a better attitude took flight. Its message has stayed with me for over six months now, just like Zach’s legacy of hope has touched people from around the world. In her memoir, Laura beautifully writes:

“Through the eyes of Zach’s story, [people] were able to see things more clearly and gain perspective on their own lives. What seemed like a problem before hearing Zach’s story wasn’t such a big deal anymore.”

So very true.

Taking Flight

And now the family’s beautiful message of hope will reach the homes of many more. On December 2, Fly a Little Higher hit the shelves at Target as the Holiday, 2014, Club Pick. This edition offers exclusive bonus materials, including an in-depth Q&A with author Laura Sobiech and discussion questions for the reader. The Target website said that Fly a Little Higher is about how God used Zach to do something big.

I’m hoping Santa will do something big and stash bags full of this book into his sleigh before he jets out on Christmas Eve. Everyone on his list would benefit from Zach’s example of how to embrace the precious gift of life.

As Katie Couric stated:

“The fact that his mother, Laura, and entire family were able accompany him on his journey with such strength and courage (not to mention love and laughter) is a powerful lesson, not about dying, but about living.”

Laura told Dave Hrbacek of The Catholic Spirit:

“It’s a powerful thing to witness [death], especially, I think, in a child. I gave birth to that boy. I consider it to be such a privilege to see this child’s whole life, to be there when he entered [the world] and then to be there when he left.”

Hmmm…A vision of Jesus’ mother pops to mind–The Nativity and Pieta.

“We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer”

On Thursday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mall of America in Minnesota a giant choir will once again perform “Clouds” in conjunction with the annual KS95 for Kids Radiothon. This two-day event benefits the Children’s Cancer Research Fund and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. It has raised more than $13 million since it was started in 1999. Zach got his first big break during the radiothon two years ago when the studio first aired the song and played it in steady rotation during the whole event. Zach was interviewed live that same year. He told the DJ, “It’s not just about me, it’s about the kids who are lying in a hospital bed right now. Let’s work together to help them.”

The Sobeich family, of Lakeland, Minnesota, started the Zach Sobeich Osteosarcoma Research Fund, using proceeds from the sale of  the “Clouds” song. This fund has swelled to $9000,000 and has ignited four research projects to beat this type of cancer.

Last year, after the KS95 “Clouds” event,  Zach’s father, Rob Sobeich, was interviewed by The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mary Divine. He told her that the large crowd that arrived at the MOA for the tribute showed the kind of community we have in Minnesota. “Everybody came together, and it was for Zach, and it was for everyone in the room, and it was for other kids who have cancer,” he said.

Zach’s song and story are also for kids who have lost a parent to cancer. Shortly after the debut of “Clouds,” I was driving a car filled with children, listening to the radio. When Zach’s song played, I asked one of my passengers if the lyrics comforted her. Her daddy, author Vince Flynn, was dying from prostate cancer. She said that it did, so we turned up the dial and let the words soak in. Her dad passed away one month after Zach did, but she takes solace in the fact that Daddy is flying a little higher.

Cancer carried away Zach too soon, but his presence continues to soar; teaching us how to live life abundantly in God’s Grace. Thank you, Sobeich family, for the legacy of hope and joy. (And the “Mommy Attitude Adjustment.”)

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About Kathy Schneeman

After graduating from The College of St. Thomas, I taught at Nativity in St. Paul until our oldest was just about born in the classroom (What a great lesson on life that would have been for my students!) I then became a stay-at-home-mom while teaching religious education classes and working very part time at UST. Recently, I served as the Archdiocese's Life Coordinator in the Office for Marriage, Family and Life until twins arrived (I was almost 43!) When I have a few minutes of quiet time, I like to run, eat chocolates, scones and Mexican food (that's why I run), read, and have a beverage with my husband at night. We have a whopping nine kids (yes...same husband and same wife; we get that question a lot!) and we attend St. Joseph's in West St. Paul--where we first met when we were in grade school.

View all posts by Kathy Schneeman