If you were to browse the iTunes music charts, it may surprise you to find that the top-selling song right now is by an artist you may have never heard of: Zach Sobiech's "Clouds" has landed at No. 1 with its inspirational message of hope and courage.
In 2009, when Zach was just 14 years old, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of terminal bone cancer. In June 2012, he was told he had only a few months left to live. Sadly, Zach lost his battle with cancer on May 20. He had just turned 18 on May 3.
"I want everyone to know: You don't have to find out you're dying to start living." With those words, 18-year-old Zach Sobiech inspired millions. Instead of waiting out his last days in sadness, Zach chose to inspire others by sharing all the songs forming in his head.
That's exactly what Zach's message has done. Reaction to Zach's story and his death has been popping up all over social media. One person tweeted, "If you haven't watched Zach Sobiech's story, go watch it. So inspiring and eye opening." Another person tweeted, "Grab some tissues and watch this eye opener. If you got heart, it's a must watch "My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech." Some people are comparing Zach's legacy to that of late Carnegie Mellon professor, Randy Pausch, who's final lecture has been viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube. In his last lecture, Professor Pausch, who was battling terminal cancer, encourages a full auditorium of students and faculty members to achieve their childhood dreams, and to enable others to achieve their dreams as well.
Similar to Professor Pausch, Zach's words of hope live on. For Zach in particular, it's through his music, especially in his farewell song "Clouds," which he released in December 2012. The video for the song has gone viral, having been viewed more than 4.7 million times and counting on YouTube.
In addition to "Clouds," a new film titled "My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech" has gone viral with more than 6 million views and counting. Soul Pancake, a spiritual video site brought to us by actor Rainn Wilson from "The Office," released the video, which documents Zach's life. It was produced by Justin Baldoni and delivers intimate interviews with Zach's friends and family members during his last days. Toward the end of the documentary, Zach says, "I want to be remembered as a kid who went down fighting and didn't really lose."
Zach added, "What makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it there. That's what's awesome about living in this world." Zach's mom, Laura, told him after the doctors found cancer in his pelvis that maybe he should start writing some letters to say his goodbyes. She knew that her son had a passion for inspiring others, and she wanted to give him the opportunity to do it.
Zach told Pioneer Press in December, "I'm not good at writing letters. So I figured instead, I could just write songs for people, and they might be around longer." He later said, "Music is a way I can express myself without having to, you know, burden others."
Zach would have graduated from Stillwater Area High School on June 8. He received his diploma early in April at his home. His lasting impact will be felt for years to come.
More than $100,000 has been raised in proceeds from fundraisers and from the sale of "Clouds" and Sobiech's other songs. It has all been added to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund.
In lieu of sending flowers, the Sobiech family has asked that people donate to his cancer research fund.