STILLWATER, Minn. A song about ascending to heaven written by a dying 18-year-old, has gotten 7.7 million YouTube hits and at one point reached No. 1 on the iTunes music charts.
Zach Sobiech, who died in late May, wrote the farewell song "Clouds" as an ode, in part, to his unwavering faith in God.
He is remembered for providing hope to people around the world, many of them facing similar situations.
His fight with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, led to the release of an entire album of his songs, "Fix Me Up," not long before his death, and prompted other musicians to perform their own versions of "Clouds."
Near the end, Sobiech found the strength to fly to New York to finalize a record deal through Broadcast Music Inc.
A version of "Clouds" featuring Jason Mraz, The Lumineers and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips drew high praise from People magazine, which called that remake perhaps "the most moving celebrity shout-out of all time."
Sobiech's story helped raise more than $100,000 for cancer research into osteosarcoma.
Scores of people wrote the teen, saying how much his words meant to them. They include a Gulf War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, a concert pianist from South Korea, and Japanese schoolchildren.
One man happened to hear the song on the radio while stopped at a red light. His car window was open and more than a dozen kids began spontaneously singing the song with him.
The funeral for Sobiech was held at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Stillwater, Minn., where he and his family have been members for 20 years.
"Our faith kept us from despair and kept our eyes focused on what is truly important eternity," Sobiech's mother, Laura, said.
"It's been a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking walk, but you know, so was Christ's life. I have just really tried to hang on to how Christ showed us to suffer and just meditate on that and continually pray for God's grace. And I know that's what it is. It's all of these prayers of people out there holding us up," Sobiech's mother told radio station KTIS.
The Rev. Mike Miller, who helped conduct the funeral, said Sobiech's music touched "people who were in a very dark place."
This is Sobiech's journey, told through the words of "Clouds":
"Well I fell down, down, down
Into this dark and lonely hole
There was no one there to care about me anymore
And I needed a way to climb and grab ahold of the edge
You were sitting there holding a rope
And we'll go up, up, up
But I'll fly a little higher
We'll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear
It won't be long now, it won't be long now."
Most of the more than a thousand people at his funeral sang the words "up, up, up" at his funeral.
c. 2013 Religion News Service