Hope and encouragement are rarely the feelings expressed by a family in mourning over the loss of a child. On the surface, there is nothing to make this situation better. Nothing to bring her back. Nothing to fill that hole in a parent’s or sibling’s heart. But when you look beyond the surface, like Athena Orchard’s parents, brothers and sisters, you may find a greater peace than could ever be imagined.
In December of last year, Athena Orchard discovered a lump on her head that was later diagnosed as a terminal cancer known as osteosarcoma. The very aggressive form of the disease spread rapidly throughout her body, and even after chemotherapy and hours of surgery, Twelve-year-old Athena was not able to fight the onslaught of the cancer any longer. She passed away on May 28, 2014, in her hometown of Leicester, England. She was survived by her father, Dean (33), mother, Caroline (37), and nine siblings (six sisters and three brothers).
The part where her family picks up the pieces of their lives usually follows a story like this one, but in Athena Orchard’s case, her story continues to grow. And so does her legend.
Athena Orchard and the Truly Magical Looking Glass
Dean was in his daughter’s room in the wake of the family’s loss and saw Athena’s full length mirror in the same place it always leaned in her room. Something compelled him to move the mirror — any number of factors played a role — and what he found on the other side left him speechless. His sweet Athena had written a 3,000 word message on the back of the now-magical looking glass.
When their daughter felt the most physically distant, and only the memories of the past and the spirit of her presence echoed through their home, Athena Orchard was close to them again. Her family knew she was a writer, but they never expected to find the musings written in black felt marker on the non-reflective side of the mirror. And yet, for this child who was wise beyond many adults, she reflected clearest and most beautifully on the other side.
A portion of Athena Orchard’s message, courtesy of her family:
“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, 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.
Life is a game for everyone but love is the only prize.”
Before you go to bed tonight, hug your children a little tighter, be a little nicer to your brothers and/or sisters, call the people who raised you and be thankful for the game we get to play and for the love we get to share in these days that are not guaranteed.