You don't have to find out you're dying to start living

Singer, song writer Zach Sobiech finds out he is dying from cancer at 14 and does more living before his death, at age 17, than most of us do in our lifetime. He teaches us how to live, love and leave this life in his story.

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  • If I told you today was the last day of your life what would you do? If I told you today was the last day of your child’s life what would you do? Zach Sobiech learned at age 14 that he had terminal cancer and that his life would end. What did he do? He wrote music and he lived. More than a million people heard the music of his heart. He lived a rich full life for a few more years. Zach died May 20th, 2013. This is a story about what we can learn from a documentary made about how he lived, knowing he was dying.

  • I saw Zach’s story just a few months after losing a close friend instantly and unexpectedly. I had not been given the chance to say goodbye. My friend was killed by a drunk driver. I was fascinated with the gift of being able to say goodbye, and what Zach, a boy on the verge of being a man would say, knowing he had such a short time. Adam Mordecai shared Zach’s story on

  • Zach’s story is amazing because Zach is an amazing young man who was supported by his wonderful family. Here are a few things Zach and his family said and we can learn from his story.

  • Life is about making others happy. “(It) makes you happy to see someone else smile because you put it there," 17-year old Zach said. "That is what’s awesome about this world. You can help people ...” Although there's no doubt Zach’s illness is painful, his entire focus appears to be away from himself and on the people around him. He seeks to make others feel better when they are with him.

  • Follow your dream

  • Zach and his friend write music and sing. Zach tells us that, “My closure is being able to get my feeling into these songs, so they (family and friends), can have something to remember me by and lean on when I am gone.” Zach chose to spend his remaining years creating. He wrote a song named Clouds, which has reached #53 on the top 100 charts in iTunes.

  • Support your family’s dreams

  • What makes all of Zach’s dreams possible is the amazing family that surrounds him. Zach’s mother talks about Zach’s music with love and says, “It is Zach’s way of saying I’m OK — saying goodbye. I am so grateful it’s there because I am going to need it later.” Throughout the documentary you see his mother steady and strong. She talks about making hard decisions with Zach, including the length of his life, versus the quality of his life, based on medical choices. Every thought and every word is in Zach’s best interest and respecting his dreams and wishes.

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  • Live every day like it is your last

  • Zach’s home was warm and inviting. Throughout the documentary the kitchen is filled with good food, family and friends who are focused on each other and visiting, not television or video games. You see them laughing and engaging with each other and hanging on Zach’s every word, knowing their time with him is short.

  • They go out of their way to make him happy and give him little gifts or make his dreams come true. His father rents a car he loves. His girlfriend plans a special picnic. He writes music and leaves messages for each and every important person in his life.

  • They are living the way we should live every day. The truth is every day may be our last. Keeping in mind that time is precious, reminds us that the people around us are precious. What some of us wouldn’t give for just one more sentence, just one more hug from someone we love and have lost. Live without regrets.

  • The simple things really are the sweetest

  • Sometimes you might wish you could just win the lottery, have that fancy new car or just run away from your responsibilities. Faced with the end of his life, Zach and his sweetheart Amy dream. Amy talks about getting married and she explains that they love dreaming about the simple basic joys of day-to-day life. She says, “Getting married, kids, jobs; we do that (dream about them), a lot when we have bad days."

  • It’s all about family staying together

  • Both of Zach’s parents talk about the importance of family. Zach’s father believes, “You have to stick together as a family ... we have to make it through as a family ... together.” When Zach describes his love for his sister Grace, he shares that it is enough just to be in the same room. To survive illness, financial and other disasters as a family and remain strong like Zach’s family is remarkable. They are an example of having their priorities in order. It really is all about sticking it out together as a family.

  • “You don’t have to find out you're dying to start living,”

  • is my favorite line in the documentary. I have learned over and over again, that last time you see someone, may be the last time you ever see them.

  • Learn from Zach Sobiech and live every day as if it is your last. When your children are making you crazy, be grateful they are there to make you crazy. When your husband is late coming home, be glad he is able to come home. Live and love everyone around you a little deeper and a little more because you heard Zach Sobiech sing, and the song of his soul touched your heart.

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Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.

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