After their daughter lost her fight with cancer, Dean and Caroline Orchard knew they had to face the devastating task of sorting through her belongings.Posted by Jill Fallon at June 7, 2014 9:17 AM | Permalink
What they didn’t know was that they would discover something that would make them feel closer to 13-year-old Athena than ever.
On the back of her bedroom mirror, the little girl had secretly written a 3,000 word message for her parents and siblings.
In it, she gives advice for them to live by and reveals her unshakeably positive attitude, writing: ‘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.’
Mr Orchard, 33, said: ‘I started reading it but before long I had to stop because it was too much. It was heartbreaking.’
Athena was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, at the age of 12, after collapsing just before Christmas in the kitchen of the family’s home in New Parks, Leicester. She had an emergency seven-and-a-half hour operation to remove a tumour on her spine, followed by months of chemotherapy targeting the cancer in her spine, shoulder and head.
She lost her hair and much of her strength – but not her positive outlook. In marker pen on the back of the mirror, she wrote: ‘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.’
Despite treatment, Athena’s condition deteriorated quickly, and she died at home last week, surrounded by her family.
Days later, her parents discovered her message while moving the mirror that stood against her bedroom wall.
Mr Orchard, who gave up work as a landscape gardener when his daughter became ill, said: ‘I couldn’t believe it, I saw all this writing, it must have been about 3,000 words. It’s so touching. When I first saw it, it just blew me away.
Athena, who leaves behind six sisters and three brothers – Naysa, one, Letissia-Dior, two, Indika-Mayah, four, Tiana, five, Harley, eight, Porscha and Ethan, 11, Clayton, 14, and Ria, 17 – also wrote movingly about love, saying: ‘I’m waiting to fall in love with someone I can open my heart to. ‘Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change.’
‘We’re keeping the mirror forever. Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us. She had such an incredible spirit.’