Stephen's story: The sad spectacle of a young life cut short should remind us that there's not a moment to waste

If you discovered that you were about to die, would your top priority be such an unselfish act?

 

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Taking life for granted is so easy. We often grumble our way through the day, forgetting that life is finite. We’ll never get those hours back. Do we really have time to waste on being unhappy?

The younger you are, the harder this is to process. Who believes that life can be taken away from them before they hit 30, 25 or even 20? But it happens. Just look at the sad and recent slew of young deaths. Peaches Geldof, suddenly found dead at 25, leaving behind a loving and devastated family. Dylan Tombides, the West Ham player, succumbing to testicular cancer aged 20 after a three-year battle with the disease. Not bothered about these two because you don’t like football or celebrity culture? Grow up and have some compassion. They had already achieved more than many. We’ll never know what else they could have done.

Now we see ordinary teenager Stephen Sutton, just shy of Dylan’s age, bravely facing the end of his life. Stephen’s story moves and inspires. After receiving his cancer diagnosis, he compiled his bucket list and promptly set about ticking items off the list, accelerating his teenage kicks by jumping out of aircraft, getting a tattoo and meeting the rich and famous. Sounds fun, and why not? Yet top of the list was a more altruistic goal – to raise a million pounds for the Teenage Cancer Trust. This money will help other young sufferers in the future – a future that Stephen will not get to see himself.

If you discovered that you were about to die, would your top priority be such an unselfish act? For most of us, the answer would be no, which is why so many people have got behind Stephen’s campaign. We’re touched by his resolve. His situation is desperate but his outlook is strong. Thanks to much celebrity support on Twitter, the total raised so far has exceeded £1.5m and may even reach £2m. It will keep rising, one suspects, after Stephen is gone.

Stephen’s not a saint. He’s an ordinary person in horribly extraordinary circumstances. Would I be as brave as him? No. But next time I grumble for no reason, and waste some minutes that I’ll never get back, I’ll think about Stephen, and tell myself to shut up. I suggest you do the same. As my teachers used to say, it’s your own time you’re wasting.

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