Our time on this earth is limited. It’s a reality that finds all of us, no matter how far we push it to the back of our minds. We face the immeasurable grief of loss throughout our lives in seasons, and each time are reminded that there will be a day when others will mourn for us as we mourn now. Death is the universal equalizer – not one of us will escape.
I realize I may sound harsh and morbid, but after watching Clouds, now streaming on Disney+, it seems only fair that I face my own mortality. If Zach Sobiech (played by Fin Argus) did so with such grace and openness, then I owe it to myself and others to explore just how easily his story could be mine.
I was unfamiliar with the Zach Sobiech story until watching this film based on Laura Sobiech’s book “Fly a Little Higher.” A senior in high school with a terminal form of osteosarcoma, Zach is faced with the responsibility of knowing his remaining time is limited, and deciding what to do with it. As his parents Laura and Rob (Neve Campbell and Tom Everett Scott respectively), family, best friend Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter) and girlfriend Amy (Madison Iseman) process the news in their own ways, Zach sets out on his own path to coping. Complete with the brutal punches of reality and gried, Zach’s final months are also filled with laughter, quality time, and music. Especially music. Together Zach and Sammy form a band, A Firm Handshake, and before they know it are going viral online. News channels are picking up the story, local radio is playing their hit song “Clouds,” and they are even signed to record an album. As their music gains momentum and attention, Zach’s health deteriorates.
I typically shy away from these kind of stories. I’m a mom of four, and I’ve watched friends and family say goodbye to their children – so I can’t handle it in movies. I also tend to find movies like this to be emotionally cheap in that they wreck your feelings but also leave you feeling empty. Clouds is not like that. It is compelling, well-written, engaging, and genuine. Fin Argus’ performance is a beautiful combination of the freedom that comes with being young with the overwhelming pressure to be strong for others – a burden that pulls down even the most mature of adults. I was so engaged with the story that at times I forgot I was watching a movie. It has left a lesson and impression on my heart that continues to linger.
Zach faced a choice that no one should ever need to consider: the choice of how he wanted to live knowing at any point, tomorrow could be taken away. He had every right to choose anger. He had every right to choose depression. No matter what he chose, he would have had cause. But Zach chose to love. Zach chose to live.
Music is one of those things that transcends time. Even as styles and trends change, music journeys across generations and languages. Zach’s letters to those he was leaving behind went beyond paper and envelopes. His lyrics and music became pieces of himself, imprinted not only on those closest to him, but on people all over the world. Even as he passed, he lived. And the part of his heart left here is timeless. May we all live our lives in such a way that we “don’t wait until we are dying to begin living,” and that our legacies are ones of love.
And we start today.
Clouds is now streaming on Disney+