Together, we cry.

Last year, at around 5:50 a.m., I heard a crash upstairs. When I awoke, I simply said, “No.”

I tried to run, but my muscles were not racing as fast as my mind– my mind was already holding my brother, how dearly I wanted to hold my brother. I made it upstairs to find my mom crouched over Zach who had fallen on the bathroom floor.

This morning, a year later, at around 5:50 a.m., I dreamt Zach and I were in an empty movie theater. The seats were dark red, and the theater was fogged in shadow with only a single beam of light piercing over our heads.  The screen showed the end to a very sad film, a movie about a boy who was about to die. The movie angles were close-ups of winces, white sheets, and curly hair. The film filled the theater with silence and last movements grabbing for just a little more of everything. This layer of screen kept us – we could only watch.

With the stillness of the boy’s body, Zach laid his head on my shoulder. I rested my cheek on his head. And together, we cried.

On this first anniversary of Zach’s death, I believe he is watching his movie, this movie recalling his death, right along with us.

He remembers the echoey phone tree relaying the message of his death, the thousands of half empty water bottles, the picked-at veggie trays, the dewey and cold tulips, and the very sunny day. He hears the year-old  “I will always love you,” “I’ll miss you,” “I wish I could have done this for you” swishing in bitter tears and quiet breaths.

And while he knows more now than ever, while he sees the picture as complete and whole— as we lost him, he lost us.

As I dry my eyes with warm sunlight and blowing fans, as I feel the salt ache on my face, for some reason I feel comfort.

Because this morning, he laid on my shoulder. Together, we cried.

We may have lost Zach inasmuch as he is out of sight, yet he is so near, filling spaces with a presence that spreads far beyond memory and mourning. Why else would I have cried out to the empty passenger seat  “Zach, I just want you back here”? Why else would I have said, “I miss you” to the air whipping past my car window?


17 thoughts on “Together, we cry.

  1. Rebecca Szerman

    I thought of him this morning and looked at the clouds and smiled and felt him smiling back….we all miss him.

  2. Laura

    I cannot believe it has been a year already. Beautiful post Ali – brought a tear to my eye. I’m sure Zach is looking over you all x

  3. Lynn Duncan

    I am almost done reading the book so this post reached out almost physically. Of course I was following in real time back then.

    I think he rides with all of you, but I am sure he would like to drive. Maybe he does, in a way. He drives so many of us to do more, listen more, help more and BE more..

  4. Chris, St. Charles, MO

    As a fellow bereaved sister, I hear you. I understand you. I relate to you. You express “the” feelings so well.

    Bless you and your beautiful family for continuing to share your journey. Bless all of you as you grieve. Bless all of you as you courageously and graciously carry on in this “new normal.” Bless Zach. His light continues to shine, even in the lives of many who never had the good fortune to meet him.

  5. Jeannie Davis, Marine on St. Croix

    It is comforting to know that you realize that Zach is always with you. Keep on talking to him, yelling to him and feeling his presence around you. You are a very special sister.

  6. Emily Boote

    Yes, a year. I woke up thinking of Zach, too. I remember something I read that goes roughly, ‘we can’t change things alone, but if we all do what we can, together we can change something bigger than any of us.’ Donations to Zach’s research fund, buying the book, purchasing music, …and for me, my labrador and I went through the training to become a Therapy Animal team, so we could visit hospitals and share some labrador love with families, patients, and medical staff who are dealing with cancer. In fact, we were certified on April Fool’s!

    Our first visit wasn’t to a hospital, though. We were asked to come to a Freshman Stress-Out Party at a university in St. Paul. How fitting. Zach could have easily been one of the students. Some of the 40 or so freshman who were taking a break from studying for finals and spent time with us petting my dog and talking about their pets at home could have, or may have been classmates of Zach. We humans each carry each other with the gifts we have. I appreciate the writings from Ali and they give me a perspective to help others. I still miss the updates and still watch the videos. I’m still doing what I can.

  7. Marlene Richards

    Though I never met Zach, I pray for him still. As I read “Fly a Little HIgher”, something inside me opened. As a mother of two sons, one with curly hair and always smiling, I was so touched by what an AMAZING family the Sobiech’s are. What an example all of you are for the rest of us! I will never look at clouds the same way again. God bless all of you and KNOW that Zach is happy and making music with angels.

  8. I love the clouds, the beauty, the movements, the freedom they seem to have in the never ending sky. I remember Zach everytime I look at the clouds. He will absolutely never be far from my mind. Love, Tracy Solomon

  9. Derek

    Ali, I never got to meet Zach, when I first heard of the story it really touched me. Ever since couldn’t forget.
    Right now while studying, I realized it was its anniversary and to be honest, his song is among the first things I listen when ever I’m feeling down.
    You might not see him, but he’s there. He’ll always be, sometimes more than others but he’ll always be.
    Apart from that I could never agree more with your parents here. On the last SoulPancake’s video.
    God bless all the Sobiech family.

  10. cduncan1983

    Ali, I just finished reading your mom’s book. It was offered to me through BookLook bloggers as a book to review. It has touched me more deeply than any other book I’ve ever read. God bless.

  11. Becky Stone

    Dear Alli, just a comment to say that your writing is exceptional, truly brilliant, captivating. Having just finished reading your Mum’s book, I can see where you get your talent from :).
    I have watched the beautiful film by Justin Baldoni about Zach, which led me to your Mum’s book and then your blog. What an amazing family, so full of love and energy. What you have together is eternal. Thanks so much for sharing it with the world.
    So many best wishes and much love from London UK,

  12. Hello Alli! I do not speak very good English, my language is french but I want to write you this.

    Alli is a wonderful text very touching in honor of a very special young I am sure. I remember the precise moment when I click on play to listen to the documentary My last day of your brother Zach, I still remember like it was yesterday, I was so upset Alli. Strangely, I started to cry immediately when he pronounced his first words and it was like that for the rest of the evening, as if it were a member of my family.

    Afterwards, I felt the need to learn more about this young man who had so much touched me. It was then that I made full of readings on history and I realized it was a very special person with something unique. I realized how lucky I was to know its history. It made me realize the important things that I could overlook. Honestly, even today, it is not a day goes by without my thinking for Zach and for members of his family. I like to take your news by reading your blog for example :). It makes me much good!

    Alli, I live in Canada, to the east of the country, I never set foot in the United States but one day, I promise myself to go to Minnesota and I’ll lay the beautiful flowers on her tombstone, makes a lot of sense to me :).

    Alli I wish you all the best that life can offer you, Amy and all your family.

    Wholeheartedly Martine

  13. Kristina A.

    Hi Ali….my children and I have been following your family from the beginning and we are so touched by the love and faith you all share….I have one question….In your mother’s book she mentioned Amy’s farewell dance to Zach. I believe I stumbled across a video if it on her twitter account (Amy’s) but I cannot find it again. Part of me almost believes that I never saw it but believe I did because your mother’s writing of it draws a very touching picture. If. One does exist…how do I get to it? After reading the account of it I am eager to watch it again….thank you….K

      1. Kristina Alger

        Thank you so much for your response! I really appreciate you taking time out to do this for me. Please feel free to share my email address with Amy if that would be easier….

        God bless!

      2. Kristina Alger

        Hi Alli….was just wondering if Amy was able to find the link to her dedication dance…..thank you so much for your effort😊. My email is

        Btw….going tomorrow to buy A Firm Hanshake for my family as well as for a few of my friends….
        Thanks again….
        Kristina Alger

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