Imagine that a dying man comes to a Scottish loch, determined to create one last thing of beauty before he passes from this world. He carefully chooses a stone from the loch side, measures his strength, sets his sight on the opposite side, and throws. But he does not just throw this stone. He lofts it – with such grace, that the ensuing chain of ripples spreads out, not only across the entirety of the loch, but far out into the sea beyond.
It would seem that Stephen Sutton is about to leave us. His family have posted on his Facebook page to say that his condition has now seriously deteriorated. We do not know how long he may have left.
But in the last year, Stephen has accomplished something truly astonishing. He becomes the apotheosis of a series of people over the last few years – Claire Squires and Christian Smith, to name just two other examples – who in the manner of their dying have inspired hundreds of thousands of people to acts of kindness, and raised millions for charity.
They have shown that fundraising and charity is not just a matter of life and death, but penetrates to the matter of it.
All of us who fundraise are engaged in some way in the meaning of what it is to be alive, whether we work to help prevent untimely or painful death, or whether we work to provide and support all the things that will enhance life and make it more beautiful and precious, for the short and unpredictable time that is given to us all.
Claire and Christian could not see what their deaths have accomplished, but I am so very happy that in return for his efforts, Stephen has been given the gift of seeing the effect of his courage, kindness, and nobility in the face of pain and suffering, on hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise would never have known of him. His pride in his fundraising, his desire to encourage others to follow him, and the grace of everything he has written, have been an amazing inspiration to me, and I have worked in fundraising for nearly 17 years. He makes me very proud to be a fundraiser.
So today I salute your grace Stephen Sutton. I salute your astonishing and beautiful throw. May you go gentle into that good night.
I wrote this at 8am this morning but Stephen’s mother has just posted on his Facebook and Twitter feeds to tell us that he died peacefully in the early hours of this morning. May he rest in peace.