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Thousands bid farewell to Stephen

The public bade 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 today attended by friends and family including his mother Jane, and older brother Chris.

Among mourners was comedian Jason Manford who looked visibly upset during the service.

The comedian had met Stephen in hospital, and was among a host of celebrities praising the young man's 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 £4 million 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 fund-raising 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, diagnosed with bowel cancer at 15, was "to live not as a victim but as a free young person", adding 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, adding the charity would continue to work under Stephen's ethos that "while he may have had cancer, cancer did not have him".

Ms Dunn said: "How fitting it is a young person with cancer proved the catalyst to supporting many more young people with cancer, now and in the future."

Concluding the service the Dean said he was "glad and proud to be part of the same human race which had as one of its examples Stephen Sutton."

He added: "It would be usual now, if this was a church service, to say 'rest in peace' but I can't imagine Stephen doing that.

"He'd say 'live it up', so one more time let's give him a thumbs up."

The gathered mourners, on cue, raised a thumb, before joining in a round of applause.

Outside, as his coffin emerged from the cathedral the crowd of 1,200 again clapped for a final time.

Then a symbolic 19 balloons were released - one for each year of Stephen's life - by his mother and brother, before a much larger number were let loose to cheers, all the while backed by a steady tattoo from the Pandemonium Drummers, who had performed for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The brightly-dressed percussionists in blue tunic coats and bowler hats played out the hearse - in what seemed an apt tribute to Stephen, himself a drummer in the band Nothing Personal.

As the hearse pulled away, the crowd grew silent while others threw yellow flowers and Stephen was borne away to a private family funeral.

Before his death, Stephen said: "I don't see the point in measuring life in terms of time any more.

"I'd rather measure life in terms of making a difference.

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