Local mourners have turned out in force to celebrate the life of Stephen Sutton, the inspirational teenage cancer victim, on the day his fundraising campaign reached £4m. Hundreds gathered outside our local cathedral in Lichfield, Staffordshire, to witness the arrival of a horse-drawn carriage bearing his body.
Stephen, who died two weeks ago aged 19, is lying in a place of honour inside the cathedral until today, after the family requested that the public be allowed to celebrate the life of a young man whose bravery in the face of death touched people across the world.
“Lichfield Cathedral is such a beautiful space and it’s an opportunity for people especially from the local community who have been so incredibly supportive towards Stephen and all his family to come along and pay their respects and to celebrate his life.”
Walking around our fair city yesterday afternoon the colour yellow was everywhere, on park railings, in the memorial gardens by Minister pool, and of course all around the cathedral close, a heartwarming reminder of a beautiful soul. I feel very proud that I and my family are part of this community and very grateful for the opportunity to honour this young man in person.
As his hearse arrived, drawn by four white horses resplendent in yellow headdresses, there was spontaneous applause from the crowd. A bright yellow wreath bearing a picture of a smiley face lay beside the white coffin.
The teenager, from Burntwood in Staffordshire, launched his fundraising appeal for the Teenage Cancer Trust with an original target of £10,000. But his cheerful resilience brought his campaign to a wider audience and it gained rapid momentum.
Before his death, Stephen, who was diagnosed aged 15, said: “I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time any more. I’d rather measure life in terms of making a difference.”
Stephen “in his all too brief life” taught us “how to make the unacceptable, beautiful, he chose to share his exuberance with us, not his pain.” Stephen showed the sheer joy of existence in everything he touched, from being an A-star student at school with hopes of a career in medicine, to playing football, running cross country or playing the drums with his band Nothing Personal.
He’s been an inspiration and we all want to share in the sense of grateful, hopeful possibility … He was one of those very rare people who’ve helped us live our lives with generosity.”
Paying tribute, the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Rev Adrian Dorber, said “Rituals and gestures don’t change the world by themselves. But they can change us, and we can change the world.”
We too in our small way are trying to improve the world for older people affected by cancer, and I for one continue to draw inspiration from this very special young man. His legacy will live on for a long long time continuing to inspire future generations of young people along with the rest of us.
As a parent of three sons, all now adults living life to the full I am full of admiration for Stephen’s Mother Jane and Father Andrew as they prepare today to attend her son’s funeral. I’m sure they will feel proud, and grateful at the outpouring of love and affection the people of our home city Lichfield have shown for one of it’s bravest sons.
Jane Sutton, seen here with her son Chris called for the public to take part in a social “thunderclap” media at 11am today in memory of her son. A hashtag #ThumbsupforStephen is already in place on Twitter. “Or you could give the thumbs up to a stranger, have a cup of tea and a slice of cake, think a positive thought, clap, cheer, or even perform a random act a kindness,” wrote his mother on the Stephen’s Story Facebook page. “Do something that makes you and others happy in Stephen’s memory.”
Chris Sutton gives a thumbs up as his brother Stephen’s coffin stands in Lichfield Cathedral last night during a vigil in his memory.
I am just embarking on a new phase in our work to support older people affected by cancer and am once more energised and invigorated by this young mans achievements and, when life gets in the way as it surely will, and my spirits flag I shall remember him. Once more I’ll be renewed in my efforts to make the world a better place for all the older people affected by cancer we are trying to help. Thank you Stephen.