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



Roy Exum: ‘Mom Don’t Have…I Do’

It’s hard to know what goes through the mind of a five-year-old, particularly one who watches her mom go in and out of jail due to drug addiction. But little Sunshine Oelfke is obviously being raised right by her grandmother because the other morning, the five-year-old came into the kitchen before leaving for kindergarten with a baggie full of coins from her piggy bank. “I asked ... (click for more)

Problems With The Key Staff Findings On The Landfill

Concerning the proposed C&D Landfill in Harrison, on Sept. 11, the staff of the Chattanooga Hamilton-County Regional Planning Agency made a presentation to the Planning Commission for the rezoning request.  Mr. Schultz for the staff made the following statements which were titled "Staff Key Findings."  I would like to contend with their findings.  1. "Proposal ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Committee Says Pulling Away From County Schools Is "Feasible"

After eight months of investigating the viability of Signal Mountain establishing a separate school district, a committee of six has determined that it is feasible and would meet the goal of improving the education provided to students. The committee was also tasked with identifying obstacles and if possible to find ways to overcome them.  Results of the report were presented ... (click for more)

Alexander, Corker Are Among Sponsors Of Bill To Stabilize Premiums And Access To Insurance

A group of 24 senators - 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats led by Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) - on Thursday released short-term bipartisan legislation to stabilize premiums and access to insurance in individual health insurance markets. Senators Alexander and Murray said: “We have reached an agreement ... (click for more)

Baylor Wins State Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – There were tears on both sides of the court at MTSU’s Murphy Center Thursday afternoon. There were tears of relief and joy for the Baylor Lady Red Raiders while the tears for the Briarcrest Lady Saints represented heartbreak and disappointment. Such is the case when two really good volleyball teams meet for the second straight year for a D-II Class AA ... (click for more)

Baylor Advances To State Final; Sale Creek Ousted

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor Lady Red Raiders are one win away from another D-II Class AA state volleyball championship. Facing the Brentwood Academy Lady Eagles for the third time this season here at Blackman High School Wednesday morning in the winner’s bracket final, Baylor was able to advance by winning in four sets, but it was a battle for the ages where two really good ... (click for more)