Twelve-year-old Athena Orchard was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in December of last year after collapsing on Christmas. The cancer was in her spine, left shoulder, and head, and she underwent intense chemotherapy, along with a nearly eight-hour-long surgery to remove a tumor on her spine. She lost her hair. And last week, she lost her battle.
Just days after her death, her father Dean discovered incredible messages written behind Athena's mirror. Her family describes her as clever and spiritual, and we can add inspirational to that as well. Her messages show how we can learn so much from our children -- they are wise. Read Athena's words that her parents so generously shared. They are enlightening.
Athena is survived by six sisters and three brothers, and parents Caroline and Dean. Her dad said of the writings on her mirror, "It was a stand-up mirror in her room, and it was always lent up against the wall so we never saw behind it. She never mentioned it, but it's the kind of thing she'd do. She was a very spiritual person, she'd go on about stuff that I could never understand -- she was so clever. When I moved the mirror after she died, I couldn't believe it, I saw all this writing, it must have been about 3,000 words."
Her mom added, "We knew that Athena loved to write, that was part of who she was, it made her happy. When we read the message, it blew us away, Dean started to try and read it but then he just broke out in tears -- when it got to the part about her illness, he couldn't finish. She was an incredible girl, so bright and so strong, she continually amazed me. She was always positive, even when she was in the hospital, she would be looking after me, making sure I ate and telling me not to cry."
Our children can teach us so much. They see things through a different view, and it doesn't matter if they are 12 or 4 or newborn. All kids can teach us something. Athena, this brave 12-year-old, can teach us so much just in what she wrote on the back of her mirror. But what we know of her story, her life, how she was so brave when faced with an illness, can also teach us. She wrote messages we all hear but too many of us don't heed. Maybe this can be a reminder. She's truly an inspiration not just to her parents, but to parents everywhere, people everywhere. Our kids are wiser than we realize. Here is an excerpt of her messages:
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.
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.
Athena's mom said, "We're keeping the mirror forever, it is a part of her we can keep in the house, it will always be in her room. Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us, she had such an incredible spirit."
Our children have a lot to say. We all should listen. We do have to cherish every moment, every day ...
Did you also find inspiration in these messages from Athena? What are some ways your kids have inspired you?
Image via Abby Lanes/Flickr