Athena Orchard had less than six months to prepare for death. After being diagnosed with cancer last December, the 12-year-old underwent intensive chemotherapy, before it ultimately spread to her spine, left shoulder and head. She passed on May 28.
Her parents Dean and Caroline Orchard, residents of New Parks, Leicester in the U.K., were understandably devastated, having to say goodbye to their little girl. But a discovery by Dean days after his daughter's death changed everything.
On the back of a mirror in her room, Athena had penned a 3,000 word note. She had written the message following her cancer diagnosis.
"It was a stand-up mirror in her room, and it was always up against the wall so we never saw behind it," Dean explained of the note's location.
"She never mentioned it, but it's the kind of thing she'd do...she was so clever,” he says of his daughter.
Despite her dire diagnosis, Athena remained positive in her lengthy message. "Every day is special, so make the most of it," she wrote. "You could get a life-ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad."
And although she suffered the trauma of losing her hair and undergoing a 7 1/2-hour operation, Athena stayed incredibly strong. "Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it's not about the happy ending, maybe it's about the story," she wrote. "The purpose of life is a life of purpose."
The preteen also talked about "waiting to fall in love," and had some extraordinarily wise thoughts on the topic.
"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 only prize," she said.
Athena's mother Caroline says of the present their daughter left, "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."
She adds, "Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us, she had such an incredible spirit."
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