Roy Exum: The Back Of Athena’s Mirror

Monday, June 9, 2014
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
It’s been a couple of weeks since Athena Orchard, age 13, died of osteosarcoma after being diagnosed a year before. She grew up in a big, happy family in England, with six sisters and three brothers, yet amazingly not one had any inkling of a very secret project that she had cleverly planned to leave behind.

“She was an incredible girl, so bright and so strong. She was beautiful and athletic but as her cancer advanced, she became the bravest person I have ever known,” her mother, Caroline, told reporters at Britain’s Daily Mail. “She was always positive, even when she was in the hospital she would be looking out for me, making sure I ate and telling me not to cry.

“We knew the cancer was very aggressive … she fought it as long as she could but eventually she was too weak to get out of bed,” her mother added, explaining that only after the funeral could she or her husband finally enter Athena’s vacant room and begin to put their child’s things away. It just so happened that in the room was a large, almost full-length mirror that stood against the wall. When her husband Dean moved it, only then did they see that Athena had left behind a treasure on the back of her mirror.

In neat, precise handwriting, the young teenager had written a message of over 3,000 words she had obviously hoped would matter to her family, beginning with the words, “Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it's not about the happy ending, maybe it's about the story,” she began.

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose,” was another line. “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”

Her mother couldn’t believe it. “Dean started to try to read but then he broke down in tears and we had to stop,” said Caroline. “It was too much. It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe it … when I first saw it, it just blew me away. We knew Athena loved to write, that it was part of who she was. It made her happy. Just reading the words, which we have done countless times, makes it feel like she is still with us.”

With no further comment, here are some excerpts of what 13-year-old Athena Orchard wrote on the back of the mirror in her room:

* * *

“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 the 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 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 gonna 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.”

royexum@aol.com


Standing Behind The Armored Truck Lane

I just wanted to say that I stand behind the city's implementation of an armored truck lane.  I do my banking downtown and see those armored truck lanes used quite extensively.  The armored truck lane provides a safe, close location for the transfer of money to and from the banks.  I do have a few complaints about the armored truck lanes, however.  They need ... (click for more)

Hamilton County School Board Should Learn From Cleveland

Wow!  Hamilton Country School Board take a lesson from little ol' Cleveland.   Flat out fired their director of schools.  I would hope it would be primarily for his flat out stupidity as much as the lies and other indiscretions.    How many others have fallen doing such things? Mike Lawrence Chattanooga (click for more)

Cleveland School Board Votes 5-2 To Terminate School Director Ringstaff Over Twitter Messages

The Cleveland School Board on Friday fired Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of schools, for sending sexually explicit messages to an anonymous woman a year ago.  His termination is effective immediately and does not include severance pay.  The school board called an emergency meeting after Dr. Ringstaff, who is married, admitted to sending explicit messages to ... (click for more)

History Center Not Giving Out Any More Information On Past Spending Details, Current Status, At This Time

The president of the Chattanooga History Center, which has halted plans for a world class history museum near the Aquarium after raising over $10 million, said no other information will be provided at this time. Chattanoogan.com had sought details about prior spending and the salary of former executive director Daryl Black as well as the center's current status. Jo Coke said, ... (click for more)

Hamilton Heights Blitzes Central In Second Half For 67-42 Win

(Story will be updated) For 19 minutes Friday night Central played nationally ranked Hamilton Heights toe-to-toe. Then the talented Hawks turned the lights out on the Pounders. Hamilton Heights (22-2) outscored the Pounders 16-3 to close the third quarter and 17-2 to start the fourth and turned a tight game into a 67-42 rout in the inaugural McCallie Classic. ... (click for more)

Ernie Johnson Jr. Captivates McCallie Classic Luncheon Crowd

Ernie Johnson Jr., the popular host of “Inside the NBA” on TNT, tipped off the inaugural McCallie Classic on Friday with a riveting speech before a large crowd at the school’s Sports and Activities Center. The rest of the two day event, which includes two nationally ranked basketball teams, had a hard act to follow. Johnson, a cancer survivor whose family adopted a young ... (click for more)