THE public said an emotional farewell to an inspirational teenage cancer victim, as more than 10,000 people joined a vigil in his honour.
A service marking the end of two days’ thanksgiving for Stephen Sutton’s life, at Lichfield Cathedral, was yesterday attended by friends and family including his mother Jane and older brother Chris.
Among the mourners was comedian Jason Manford who looked visibly upset during the service. The comic had met Stephen in hospital, and was among a host of celebrities praising his courage in living with terminal disease.
Earlier, about 400 people had also given a thumbs-up to the memory of the brave campaigner who helped raise £4m in the fight against cancer.
Twitter said 11,000 tweets had been sent with the hashtag #ThumbsUpForStephen. The 19- year-old succumbed to multiple tumours on May 14 after a determined fight – provoking an outpouring of grief, and prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to say: “His spirit, bravery and fundraising for cancer research were all an inspiration.”
Thousands turned out over both days to file past Stephen’s white coffin as it lay in a place of honour inside the cathedral in what Dean of Lichfield, the Very Reverend Adrian Dorber, called a “phenomenal” display of human unity, for the man he said “has become everybody’s favourite son”.
During the service, the Dean said Stephen’s memory had “energised people” both young and old, among them cancer survivors and sufferers, who had patiently queued to grieve the loss of the teenager from Burntwood in Staffordshire.
He said the enduring lesson of Stephen, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 15, was “to live not as a victim but as a free young person”, adding that his inspiration was to “offer an alternative to the bleak, mean view, we often have of life”.
The young man’s former headteacher, Stuart Jones, of Chase Terrace Technology College, said there was “a collective pride” over the fact Stephen had studied there.
“It is hard to comprehend how he found the courage, determination and energy to achieve what he did in his last few years,” he said.
These achievements, brought together in a bucket list, included urging Mr Jones to join him in a 15,000ft skydive.
“I hated it, as I expected, but am really glad I did it,” he said.
“His spirit makes us want to be bolder and braver.”
Siobhan Dunn, chief executive of the Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “The difference Stephen has made has been immeasurable.”
She said the charity would spend the donations “supporting and developing” the trust’s 22 UK units, outreach nursing teams, and youth support workers.
“Young people should not be defined by their cancer,” she said.