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Reflection: Stephen Sutton – Joy and sorrow transformed by love


by The Revd Canon Dr. Robin Gibbons 

(This article originally appeared at Independent Catholic News.  Thanks to ICN for permission to repost.)

So many of us will have been touched by the news that Stephen Sutton, the ‘fund raising teenager for cancer’ died peacefully in his sleep on May 14th. His face smiling from his hospital bed, thumbs up with thanks for all the generous giving to teenage cancer sufferers, is a picture that will remain fixed in the minds of those he loved but also the many people who were caught up in his story even for a moment.

I hope, as I am sure so many of you do, that his legacy of courage, dignity, zest for life and care for others will inspire us, especially the young (and the young at heart!). Those of us who are praying people will join together in asking that Stephen may rest in peace, his journey ended, but also that the comfort and consolation of the Risen Lord may wrap around his family and friends.

Stories like Stephen’s bring out the best in the human family. This Eastertime we have been surrounded by the cycle of new life in spring, but the story of Mother Earth is also littered with unresolved and painful moments, Boko Haram and the kidnapped girls, Syria, the miners and their loved ones in Turkey, so many other tragedies, but into this the life and death of one of us, a young man of 19, has reached out through the muddle and pain to inspire and move and remind us all of what it means to be a true human being!

This is a story of love transforming pain, suffering and the darker side of life, the love a young man for life, the love he so obviously got from those around him who helped him become that amazing icon of human care and compassion for others.

This is in real terms the Easter Story being preached by one of Christ’s little ones. We hold that life is precious and important and that the life and death of each one of us matters. Stephen’s story illustrates this so powerfully, it reminds those of us with harder cynical hearts and minds, how love transforms, how as Philip Larkin reminds us in his poem ‘An Arundel tomb’: ‘What will survive of us is love’.

I hope our country honours this young man posthumously for his generous self giving to the end! May he rest in peace.

If you would like to donate to Stephen’s campaign see:


About Canon Gibbons

The Revd Canon Dr. Robin Gibbons is a member of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oxford, and Fellow and Alexander Schmemann Professor of Eastern Christianity at the GTF as well as Dean of Studies, Foundation House/Oxford.  He is also Pastoral Director of the Oxford Theology Summer School and the Director of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education’s flagship OUSSA Summer School.