Athena Orchard was 12 years old when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. Her life transformed into a series of operations, surgical procedures and rounds of radiation and chemotherapy.
On the May 28th, 2014, Athena passed away. She was 13 years old.
Athena was survived by her mother Caroline, her father Dean, six sisters and three brothers. The whole family lives in Leicester, England.
Even while Athena was in hospital she made sure she kept herself and her family in good spirits. She even reminded them that they had to eat and smile.
Days after she passed away, Caroline and Dean had to deal with the task of cleaning her bedroom. It was then that they moved the full length mirror and found the 3000 word message.
After having been diagnosed with cancer, Athena had written a secret message to her family.
In her own words, Athena described what love meant to her, the meaning of happiness and the importance of living each day as if it were the last.
This is Athena’s message:
"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.
Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change. 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. 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.
Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about. I want to be that girl who makes your bad days better and the one that makes you say “my life has changed since I met her”.
Love is not about how much you say “I love you”, it’s about how much you can prove it’s true. Love is like the wind, you can feel it but you can’t see it. 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 … Life is a game for everyone, but love is the prize. Only I can judge me.
Sometimes love hurts. Now I’m fighting myself. Baby I can feel your pain. Dreams are my reality. It hurts, but it’s okay, I’m used to it. Don’t be too quick to judge me, you only see what I choose to show you … you don’t know the truth. I just want to have fun and be happy without being judged.
This is my life, not yours, don’t worry about what I do. People are going to hate you, rate you, break you, but how strong you stand, that’s what makes you … you!
There’s no need to cry because I know you’ll be by my side."
Friends and others close to Athena left messages of remembrance and love in the Orchard family house.
And when Caroline and Dean decided to share their daughter’s message with the world, showing how strong she was, it immediately went viral.
The family will keep the mirror forever. And every time they read it, they feel as if their daughter was right back with them.
I can’t imagine what her parents felt upon finding and reading the hidden message. But what I can say is that it is a beautiful bittersweet story.