This is not goodbye. This is just "see you later."
-Zach to his friend Kathleen on Friday night. He was planning to leave for Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
8/20 (Monday): Started http://zachswriting.blogspot.com where we'll be posting Zach's own reflections on life and death.
Zach Weber, 21, of Freeport, PA was taken home by his Father on April 21, 2007, when he fell in a sudden rockslide while hiking in the Italian Alps.
Zach was an Airman First Class stationed with the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Aviano AFB, Italy. Zach was presented posthumously with an Air Force Commendation Medal at a memorial service held at Aviano AFB on April 27th. Zach earned this medal, typically reserved for E-5s or higher, for successfully identifying and solving particular problems with the F-16s in which he specialized. Zach was within days of being reassigned to Beale AFB in California. He had been hand-selected to go there to work on the cutting-edge Global Hawk aircraft and was to begin this assignment in May.
Born on August 6, 1985 in Seoul, South Korea, Zach was adopted by Jim and Alison when he was three months old. Zach was a committed Boy Scout throughout his life, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in 2003. Zach loved soccer and was the co-captain of the Freeport High School soccer team his senior year. In his teen years, he was a leader amongst his peers in the youth group at Christ Community Fellowship in Buffalo Township. Homeschooled for most of his life before attending Evangel Heights Christian Academy and Freeport High School, Zach graduated from the Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School in 2004. He then enlisted in the Air Force, where he worked in avionics.
Zach always had a sense of humor about both life and death. He knew that his citizenship was in heaven, and so he took on the world without fear: He went rock climbing and snowboarding in the Alps, explored the castles of Ireland, and never missed a good soccer game with his friends. Zach didn’t live to impress anyone but his God, yet he was extremely respected and loved by those who knew him. He was a true friend, and his quiet conviction had an immeasurable impact on many lives.
Zach is survived by his parents, Jim and Alison Weber, of Freeport; his younger sister, Sam (15), also of Freeport; his older sister, Alexa (23), and her husband, Seth Andrzejewski, of San Francisco; and his great-uncle, G. Stanley Weber, of Oxon Hill, MD.
Given at the Aviano AFB memorial service.
I would like to be able to stand up here and share with you some stories about my brother, to tell you something that would make you laugh and help you get to know Zach better. But although I have those memories in my head, I could never tell our stories the way Zach could. I always admitted that he was more funny than me. Zach found humor in the most mundane incidents, and no one could ever make me laugh as much and as hard as Zach did. I always told Zach, “if you ever died, it would be like getting a lobotomy—because you have like half of my memories in your head!” In a very real way, a part of me died with Zach.
Yet in the past week, I have gotten to know Zach better than I ever have before, and I wanted to share with you three things that have stood out to me most about him.
Zach had a sense of humor about both life and death. He knew that his citizenship was in heaven and that we are merely “shadows and dust” on this earth. Because he saw life for what it was—a shadow of something far better—he was able to truly live. And Zach really lived it up, especially here in Italy. He went rock climbing and snowboarding. He got to see the castles of Ireland. And he never missed a good soccer game with his friends. He took on the world without fear.
Zach wasn’t the kind of person who was always living for the future, always waiting to get on to the next thing. It’s so easy in life to get caught up in reaching for the next thing—when you’re in high school, you can’t wait to go to college. In college you can’t wait to get married. When married, you can’t wait to have kids or something. Zach wasn’t like that. Zach was content. He wasn’t sure what he would do once he left the Air Force, and though that worried him a little, he left it in God’s hands, praying every day lately, “God, show me your will for my life.” Zach lived in the now. And somehow that makes this a little less tragic, because Zach wasn’t living for something he could now never have. He had all that he wanted.
Finally, Zach was Zach. He was always so much more “cool” than me, but it wasn’t because tried. He was just real. And people liked that about him. The faith that many people know him for was simply who he was. He didn’t preach it at people, he just lived it. He was a true friend—accepting others for who they were, while being honest enough to speak the truth in love if that was what being a true friend meant. And it was this quiet conviction that impressed others. A friend of Zach’s told us, “Zach saved my life.” And I believe that even through his death, Zach will continue to bring hope to others.
If Zach’s death prompts people to seek out what gave him his perspective, his contentment, and his convictions, and if that gives them hope they might not have otherwise had, then his death was not in vain.
These are just a few of the truths I’ve realized about Zach in this past week. And although Zach is gone, I realize that I’ll probably keep getting to know him for the rest of my life as I realize a little more each day who he was and what he meant to me.
Given at the Aviano AFB memorial service.
I had the great opportunity to know Zach as a close friend. From my own personal experience with Zach, he showed that he was a man who wanted to protect and take care of those he loved. Knowing that I was a person who was always cold, no matter what the temperature, he would repeatedly give me his hoodie sweatshirt to wear, or share his favorite blanket that his mom knitted when we watched a movie. He never failed to ask me if I was warm enough, or hungry, or if I had had enough chocolate that day. He would never let me pay when we went to a movie or ate out, which is why he was so embarrassed and upset with himself when on one occasion he left his wallet in the car and I had to pay for our bill. I don’t think I ever heard a man say “I’m sorry” so many times. Even as a kid when we would hike up with his sisters to our lookout in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania, he would wait for me when I would stop to take a break because he knew I was such a weak and inexperienced hiker. With Zach, I never had to question if he cared about me. I saw it in his actions, felt it in his hugs, heard it in his words.
It would take me days to share all of the wonderful memories that I have of Zach-especially of the times when we would laugh uncontrollably about using childhood pictures of us against each other as blackmail—his bad hair and my chicken legs. However, my role in this memorial ceremony is a little different. My task is to share with you about Zach’s powerful inner-life that made him such a great guy.
Zach was a great guy NOT because of his accomplishments or his courage, but because of the One who lived through his life. Zach was a devoted Christian; a man who wanted to make every decision count for his creator, Jesus Christ. When I first spoke to Zach’s family after he passed away, the thing that they wanted the most, and what comforted them the most, was to hear about how his desire to live for Christ affected and influenced those around him. He loved Christ with all of his heart and he wanted his friends and family to know that fact, and he wanted his life to show it.
I am blessed to say that I knew this part of Zach’s life well enough that if he were standing here today at his own service to tell you about his life, he would probably begin with a few words about his family and friends, but beyond any doubt in my mind, he would want to tell all of you about the Good News of forgiveness for sins and, most importantly, victory over the grave.
I want to tell you a story of a man from the Bible, named Nicodemus. One evening, he came to speak with Jesus. Nicodemus was a part of the ruling council of Israel. He was extremely well-educated, very religious, and very accomplished. In turn, Nicodemus had wealth, title, and the power that came with both. But there was a problem. No matter how much the world offered him, he knew none of it was good enough to merit everlasting life. Nobody’s that good. Jesus told Nicodemus that his whole life had to be re-born, re-founded on the only One Who could give him everlasting life, Jesus Himself.
Similarly, Zach could have felt that he was good enough because of the privilege of being an American, or because he was blessed with good friends and a loving family, or because he was generally a good guy. Zach knew that even the good guys can go early. But at the moment that his physical life here on earth ended, all of those things were lost to him—gone—worthless. At that moment, there was only one thing that mattered and that was the promise from Christ, God’s son, that Zach would rise again and come back to life someday, because His Savior did.
Death never had to be bleak or dark to Zach because he knew that everlasting life would come afterward. Today’s memorial would be tragic if we commemorated a man who died without hope or purpose. Instead, we’re celebrating a man who lived all of the days of the life that God had given him. And he lived them without fear, but with confidence in the promises of God’s sovereignty and love.
As I mentioned earlier, Zach and I were friends as kids. But unfortunately there was almost a seven-year gap where we lost touch with each other, and it wasn’t until last summer that our friendship became alive again. When we both realized that we were going to be in the same area of Italy at the same time, we couldn’t help but wonder what God had in store for us by having our lives re-align in such a unique way after so much time had passed. Upon my arrival here in January, it became clear to us rather quickly that God was using us to encourage each other to live our lives to the fullest for God’s glory. Zach himself said that this is why God brought me here. This is why we met and became friends almost 11 years ago.
Zach knew in his heart that even at times when life didn’t make sense - that God was in control. God knows what He is doing. He will always do what is right. The Lord is sovereign, and He will remain that way forever and ever.
This month we honored Good Friday - the day that Jesus died for the sins of all who would turn to Him. And we celebrated Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, when Jesus conquered the sting of death with Life. In the end of this story, Life wins. I want to encourage everybody to reflect deeply in the days to come about that Life and the example of Zach’s life.
In closing, I don’t know why Zach died – but I do know why he lived. Zach lived to love the God of Heaven revealed in the Bible. I know that Zach is in Heaven because of the faith he put in Jesus Christ, in his savior’s death and resurrection. And if we could look into Heaven, I believe that we would see Zach encouraging us to consider Christ and our lives. And I also believe that alongside Zach we would see Jesus with His nail-scarred hands extended to all of us in invitation to come to Him. As Zach told me the night before he died, “This isn’t goodbye; this is just see you later.” I know that I will see him later. And I hope that you all do too. It would be one of the greatest pleasures of my life if one day, I could introduce you to my good friend, Zach Weber.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Rachel Lasher forwarded us the email Zach wrote to her when her mom died. She said that it was the one out of tons that she got that she would go back to and read when she was hurting. Thanks for sharing this, Rachel. His words can comfort all of us now.
SUBJECT: Our Citizenship is in Heaven
I can't even begin to imagine what you guys must be thinking and dealing with right now, and I'm so sorry for all of you.... I'm sure you've found some comfort in knowing that she's in heaven and I know it's unbelievably cliche "she's in a better place" but my pastor gave me somewhat of a different twist to it:
John 11:35 - "Jesus wept." I guess the typical idea is that He was sad that Lazarus had died and was grieving with everyone else. But, I don't think that's why; Jesus wept because he knew Lazarus was already in Heaven with the Father, and the idea of bringing him *back* to earth; to take him away from all that, tore Jesus apart.
I can't really explain it as well as it was explained to me, but hopefully you get the idea. I know you must miss your Mom, but just imagine what Heaven must be like, if Jesus was so heartbroken to bring his friend back to earth.
"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ...Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved." -Philippians 3:20-4:1
To share your own photos, you can get a free Flickr account if you don't have one, and upload pictures with the tag zachweber.
Aviano AFB Memorial Service (NEW!)
Because Your Love Keeps Me Alive
Day is Done
Our family wishes to extend our thanks to everyone who has surrounded and supported us throughout this time through visits, food, memorial gifts, and cards. The love and support of so many friends and family members has heightened our joy as we've celebrated the fullness of Zach's life.
We particularly want to thank everyone who attended the calling hours and memorial services this weekend.
Zach's body was interred at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, 1158 Morgan Rd, Bridgeville, PA 15017 on May 5 to a 21-Gun Salute and many tears.
The Zachary Weber Memorial Chapel
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given to the Zachary Weber Memorial Chapel Fund, c/o Redmond Funeral Home, 524 High Street, Freeport, PA 16229.
These gifts will be used to restore and renovate the chapel at the Butler, PA Boy Scout camp that Zach attended for many summers, Camp Bucoco. The project will be headed up by one of his pack members, Ethan Boyd.
Memories and Messages
We created this page to be a central place for people to express their memories and messages for and about Zach. For those who knew Zach, we hope that your stories will help paint a more complete picture of who Zach was. Please add your thoughts below.
If you'd like to send a personal email, you can write to forthewebers [at] gmail.com.