You don’t have to be dying to start living.

That very quote I heard from a 17 year old boy in a documentary I watched the other day from Soulpancake on YouTube (I highly recommend Soulpancake, and I will reference them a lot). It just was one of those things that brought truth to the quote “Life- like the ocean, no matter how rigid or smooth the waters may be- is always beautiful.”

This young man, Zach Sobiech, was dying of bone cancer and this documentary followed him for his last days. He chose to say goodbye through music by writing the song “Clouds” that ended up being a hit. It just amazed me by how much his attitude resignated to others. He was so positive and worried about everyone but himself, and how they’d be when he was gone. My only thought was┬ácomplete shock at how amazing this young man was and how much everyone, especially myself, could learn from him. If only everyone had his gratitude and positive thinking, this world would be a taste of heaven. But I’m a dreamer, and we’re all human.

As a young kid into young adulthood, I was so angry at God. I blamed God for every single “burden” yet I never gave Him any credit for the blessings in my life. Being born with a potentially fatal genetic heart condition that was diagnosed at 4 or 5 years old, I had so much fear. I know my parents never actually told me at that age that I could die easily, I surely sensed it. Everyone, especially doctors, were so concerned about my quantity of life over quality of life. My parents were the only ones who tried as safely as possible to make sure I had a quality life.

I ended up developing anxiety and depression at such a young age that also followed me into young adulthood. My first memories consisted of memories involving my heart condition. My first memory at the local pool involved me blacking out in the water. My first memories in school were other kids asking why I couldn’t participate in physical activities thinking I was contagious. When I experienced the first deaths in my life, it was of my pet fish and birds. At 5 and 6 years old and not knowing any better, I carried such guilt fully believing that I somehow gave them my heart condition and it was MY fault. I began to develop overwhelming guilt.

As I was watching Zach’s documentary, I became so inspired. I’d have to say that he’d for sure be in my top 5 for inspirational people. What inspired me most was that he never once complained, never got sucked in by fear and anxiety, never blamed God, and his ability to accept death and his even greater destiny was WOW- I can’t even think of a word to describe it. Looking back on my life, I had so much self pity it was ridiculous. But Zach was the most self-less person I have probably ever heard of. He defines the word “resilient.”

Today, I still find myself hopping back on my pity pot, not letting go. If a 17 year old dying young man could acheieve what he did without blaming God and just let things go, I sure can follow in Zach’s footsteps at 27. There’s silver linings in everything, including death, but it’s all how you perceive it. This is so simple to read, although very difficult to do proactively sometimes. Today, God has blessed me with my guardian angel (also known as an implanted defibrillator) that has saved my life numerous times. Today, I am going to be inspired and have as much gratitude possible, as Zach did. Next time I complain in my head how much my life sucks, I will think of him. Godspeed, Zach Sobiech!

-Elizabeth Hunsader-Arndt

“Stars cannot shine without darknes.” -Unknown

Zach Sobiech’s “Clouds” :