This is potentially a very patriotic time in England: 21 April was the Queen’s birthday, which she celebrated quietly at home in Windsor Castle with her family, – though she probably didn’t get a lie-in, not with 21 cannon blasting away in her garden – and today is not only St George’s Day, our patron saint, but also the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. Plenty of cause for celebration, then.
What has drawn my attention in these last few days, however, is a facebook page called Stephen’s Story. A bitter-sweet story indeed, of an unassuming young man who has succeeded in raising well over a million pounds for the Teenage Cancer Trust – a wonderful achievement, and, as he pointed out, one that has given his life a purpose. Another cause for celebration.
Sadly, the celebration at having achieved his target also coincides with the grief over his impending death. Nineteen-year-old Stephen continues to tweet words of gratitude and encouragement to others as he waits for the end in his hospital bed. Positivity personified.
We bandy the term “bucket list” about without really thinking of its basic meaning: a list of goals we want to achieve before we kick the bucket. Stephen made his list after being diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 15, and like most people he started off with a list of things that would be fun, like skydiving and meeting some of his heroes. Gradually, his focus changed. He had wanted to study to be a doctor, as he has always been a caring person who wants to help others. As his illness progressed, and it became clear that it was terminal, Stephen left school and set out to make the most of the brief time remaining to him to inspire others, becoming a motivational speaker with a very powerful message. As he so succinctly put it, “I find the best way to help myself is to help others.” Many people live to a ripe old age and never discover the truth of this. If you are feeling sorry for yourself, for whatever well justified reason, just consider Stephen’s story.
The one item on his bucket list that he really cares about as he approaches the end of his life is to raise a million pounds for his chosen charity, and today he has surpassed that target. In fact, there has been so much traffic with people wanting to donate, that the donation page has crashed!
Somehow, Stephen’s timing seems right, if that is an appropriate word to use. I can’t think that it can ever be “right” for such a lovely young man to have to die before his twentieth birthday, and to have suffered so much, with such fortitude. But the response to his appeal adds another reason to celebrate this 23 April. May Stephen Sutton and all he has accomplished in his short life long be remembered.