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


Help The Signal Mountain Robertson Police And Fire Christmas Fund

Over the last year and a half, there have been terrorist attacks on two Chattanooga military facilities, multiple shootings, a horrific bus accident, and out of control wildfires. During these moments, police, fire, and emergency personnel, typically the first responders, courageously run towards these tragedies to save, protect, and defend the people impacted. In the last year, ... (click for more)

Thankful For The Relationship Between McCallie And Ridgedale Community

I would like to thank all the leadership at McCallie for allowing us to use the ROC for holding the Ridgedale annual Christmas party. It is very ironic that the initial meeting Patricia Rogers held to see about forming a community association in Ridgedale was held 23 years ago in December.  Miss Rogers' vision to end the decay and blight surrounding her and her mother was ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Council Looking Into Taking Over Schools

A new group of Signal Mountain Town Council members is looking into taking over county schools within the town boundaries.   Two newly elected board members, Amy Speek and Dan Landrum, joined the council Friday afternoon at the first work session after the election. The election of mayor and vice mayor for the next two years came first on the agenda. Dick Gee, mayor ... (click for more)

East Ridge Meth Dealer Gets 168 Months In Federal Prison

A man that agents said was dealing large quantities of meth from his East Ridge residence has been sentenced to serve 168 months in federal prison. Kenneth Lemons appeared before Judge Curtis Collier. Agents said they made several controlled drugs buys from Lemons at his residence in 2015. On Oct. 27, 2015, he drove up to a residence where DEA agents were making a controlled ... (click for more)

Bradley Totally Dominates Ooltewah Invitational

We’re just now through the second week of the high school wrestling season, but the Bradley Bears appear to already be in mid-season form. The Bears, defending state champs for the duals and the traditional tournament, won the Heritage Duals last weekend and they added the Ooltewah Invitational this week as they claimed 10 champions and won going away with 268.5 points. The ... (click for more)

UTC Wrestling: Mocs, Bryce Carr Host Virginia Today

Former Minnesota All-American wrestler Gerald Carr has stood on the podium His son, UTC junior Bryce Carr has a goal of standing on that same podium. “Bryce can be an All-American this year and stand on that podium,” said Gerald. “He just needs to maintain that killer instinct and continue to dictate the pace of the matches.” Yet before the younger Carr can match ... (click for more)