Roy Exum: The Back Of Athena’s Mirror

Monday, June 09, 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


A Haven For Small Business Owners

With the latest incentive recently announced by the City of Chattanooga, the community is becoming a haven for small business owners and entrepreneurs.     The small business incentive program is a win-win for both business owners, while at the same time promoting an incentive for hiring full time employees. We all know that small businesses represent the primary ... (click for more)

Is A Hotel In The Arts District A Good Idea? - And Response

This design certainly looks somewhat better than what was presented before on the new hotel by the Walnut Street Bridge, and I can understand why the developer would want that site. But I just question whether a commercial entity such as a hotel in a residential and arts district is the best option. John Fricke * * * Bluff View Inn anyone?  I am really not a fan ... (click for more)

Sewell Says City, EPB "Close" On Amount Owed By Utility To City On Street Light Overbilling

City Internal Auditor Stan Sewell told City Council members on Tuesday that EPB and the city are "close" on the amount owed by the utility to the city on street light overbilling. Mr. Sewell said the city computed the amount at about $1.2 million, while he said EPB's auditing firm, Mauldin and Jenkins, has it at $1.5 million for an 89-month period that was audited. Mr. Sewell ... (click for more)

City Council Votes 5-4 On New Process For Naming IDB Members

The City Council voted Tuesday night 5-4 to set up a new process for naming members to the Industrial Development Board (IDB), which currently has four vacancies. The process includes three City Council panels: A (Districts 1, 2, 3), B (Districts 4, 5, 6), and C (Districts 7, 8, 9). Group A will fill two of the vacancies and Groups B and C one each. Agreement ... (click for more)

Baylor Ends Big Week With Win Over GPS

The Baylor volleyball team probably doesn't get many days off during the week in midseason, but they earned a day off on Tuesday following a long and successful stretch in the last eight days. The Lady Red Raiders, won 10 of 11 matches in the last eight days, including a big win over arch-rival GPS on the road Monday night.  As a result, coach Sarah Lail urged her girls ... (click for more)

UTC's Hudson Named Special Teams Player Of The Week

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Tommy Hudson is the Southern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week, the league office announced today.  Hudson scored twice in the Mocs 42-6 win at Austin Peay on Saturday .  Hudson returned three punts for 65 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown in the third quarter.  That added to his 33-yard receiving ... (click for more)