When you suddenly discover a bump on your head, you may tend to write it off as “no big deal”. Maybe you bumped your head on something and didn’t realize it.
Athena Orchard encountered just that – a bump on her head that she didn’t give much thought to. After all, Athena was an active girl from Leicester, England where she practiced boxing. But it wasn’t until she collapsed in the kitchen when she realized something was not right and that bump may tell a more serious story. Indeed it did, as doctors soon diagnosed her with bone cancer.
At only 12-years-old, this was a huge shock to both her and her family which consists of 6 sisters and 3 brothers. It would be an operation lasting 7 hours where doctors would remove the tumor from her spinal column. This was followed up by a harsh course of chemo. With her hair gone, and her extremely weak body, this usually active girl still remained optimistic despite the aggressive nature of the cancer. It would be not long after her 13th birthday when she would pass on, surrounded by her family. Her mother Caroline stated the following: “She always remained optimistic and told me not to cry. We knew that the cancer was very aggressive. She fought for as long as she could.”
It would be a few days after his daughter passed away that her father, Dean, would start packing up Athena’s belongings. During this emotional time, Dean took down a mirror from the wall and was shocked at what he found on the back of it. It was a message from his deceased daughter. Dean describes his surprise upon finding this:
“I couldn’t believe it. It was almost 3,000 words long. It totally blew me away. I started reading the words, but I had to stop after awhile, it was simply to much – it broke my heart.”
Athena’s handwritten goodbye was full of wisdom and comfort for those she left behind. Here are some excerpts from Athena’s emotional valediction:
“Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it’s not about the happy ending, maybe it’s about the story.
The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.
Happiness is a direction not a destination. Thank you for existing. Be happy, be free, believe, forever young.
You know my name, not my story. You have heard what I’ve done, but not what I’ve been through. Love is like glass, looks so lovely, but it’s easy to shatter.
Every day is special, so make the most of it. You could get a life-ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad.
Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change. Life is a game for everyone but love is the only prize.
If someone loves you then they wouldn’t let you slip away no matter how hard the situation is. Remember that life is full of ups and downs, without the downs the ups don’t mean anything.
I’m waiting to fall in love with someone I can open my heart to.
Love is not about who you can see spending your future with it’s about who you can’t see spending your life without.
There is no reason to cry, because I’ll know you’ll be by my side.”
No one knows how this girl found enough strength to write this message. “She never mentioned it, but it’s like her,” her father knows. “Athena was very profound. She loved to write, that was a part of her and had always made her happy.” Even though Athena no longer lives, she has made herself immortal through her words: “We will keep the mirror forever. Just reading her words makes it feel like she is still with us.”
She also focused on beauty, despite the suffering she was going through. She could have chosen so many other emotions which would have been perfectly understandable. Sadness, fear, and anger are but a few. But instead, she chose to be positive and optimistic. Choosing to not accept what the front of the mirror projected as the cancer was changing her body, but instead focus on what’s inside, what is behind the image. And so behind the mirror she left her motivational inspirations for all of us to learn from and focus on.
Share this young girl’s story and inspirational words with all your friends and family.