He was beginning the 2nd semester of his junior year at Champlain College in Vermont when he got the devastating diagnosis – cancer. While it may have derailed his plans, 20-year-old Stephen Bergeron didn’t let it dim his spirit. Stephen continues to embrace life, living by the philosophy, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
A Leap of Faith
When Stephen told his Regional Hospice Social Worker, Ed Schwartz, that he had always wanted to go skydiving, Regional Hospice worked to make that dream a reality. On a clear day in September, Stephen experienced the world from 10,000 feet. From that breathtaking vantage point, he could see as far as Providence and Boston.
“It’s a Rush!”
Bergeron’s eyes lit up as he explained the rush of being able to skydive. “I had always wanted to do it – my entire life.” Still, he admitted, “I was terrified.” Contrary to what he imagined, it got easier the closer he came to jumping. “I was most calm right before the jump…The feeling of falling is just indescribable. Everything was so fast…You wear goggles. So I was just trying to look around and see as much as I could. Everything looked so small. It was incredible,” Stephen recalled with great joy. “At the landing you keep your feet out and you slide a bit. When we were on land again I thought, ‘I’m alive. That was awesome!’”
A Team Player – Boston’s Biggest Fan
Born and raised a Boston sports fan, Bergeron recently had the opportunity, thanks to a generous Regional Hospice supporter, to attend a New England Patriots game and sit on the field with his father and uncle. Reflecting on the experience of being able to watch the team warm up, Stephen said with a laugh, “The guys are so big! I mean, they are massive.” Stephen enjoys the strategy involved in sports. He is grateful to have witnessed the last game of the 2016 World Series explaining, “It was a privilege to watch, since the Cubs haven’t won a series in 108 years…They deserved it.” His appreciation for teamwork and a well-played game comes from years of sportsmanship – first as a little leaguer, then as a wrestler at Cheshire High School, and finally as a scrum half on his college’s rugby team. “I have always been on a team,” Stephen explained. He enjoys the comradery, with some of his greatest friendships developing through sports.
A Hard Worker, Wise Beyond His Years
That sense of teamwork extended into his work. While on summer break from college, Stephen was on a construction and demolition crew for a new building in New Haven. The work was hard, with long days and challenging hours, particularly for a 19-year-old. He often woke at 2:30 a.m. for a 4:00 a.m start and put in 50-hour weeks. Still, Stephen never missed a day, and was never late. Although his crew members were much older, they told him that they enjoyed communicating with him because he was such a level-headed person.
A Gentleman and A Scholar
The maturity his co-workers observed is readily apparent. Stephen is a logical, practical thinker with impeccable manners. He is quick to credit his father, Tom, for raising him to be such a gracious young man. “He’s a really good guy,” Stephen noted with admiration, “My Mom passed away when I was 5.” Careful to choose his words, Bergeron tends to, “Rough draft things in my head before I say them.” However, when asked if there is anything he would like to say to his Dad, with little hesitation, he replied, “I would just say, ‘I love you.’”
Still Young at Heart
Stephen’s maturity is teamed with a beautiful balance of playfulness. Known by his family as the “Lego Kid,” he always enjoyed building something new. Set to turn 21 on Thanksgiving Day, he recently received an anonymous early birthday gift of a Lego architecture set.
Stephen’s story is one that has touched many of us at Regional Hospice as it is such a powerful reminder to embrace life with courage and reverence. Bergeron doesn’t see himself as inspirational, as his commitment to living life fully is just his natural inclination. He genuinely appreciates all that he has been able to do in his young life, recollecting stories of whitewater rafting, a camping excursion with friends which led to several bear sightings, and over 20 Boston sporting events. He is very grateful for those experiences and cherishes the friends and family who have made them a reality, stating, “I couldn’t do anything without them.” He especially adores his girlfriend, Mimi, whom he met at college. The two text daily and see each other as much as possible.
Grateful for His Regional Team
With regards to his clinical support team with Regional Hospice, Stephen says, “I am so thankful for everything they do. Whether it is coming in and checking on me, or things like Ed helping me to go skydiving.” Such gratitude is mutual as Stephen Bergeron is a pleasure to spend time with.
When asked if there was anything else he would like to share, he closed with, “Happy to be here.” Simple words we could all live by.