On May 28, 13-year-old British schoolgirl Athena Orchard tragically lost her battle with the bone cancer osteosarcoma, which had affected her spine, left shoulder and head.
Yet her devastated family has received a small degree of solace from what Athena secretly left behind: a 3,000-word note written on the back of her bedroom mirror, in black marker.
Her father, Dean, stumbled upon the secret message – and a box full of self-penned songs – at the family's home in Leicester, England. It details the innermost feelings of a girl who had put up a courageous fight for her life.
The heartbreaking note reads: "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.”
Dean, 33, said of the note: "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."
Athena left behind six sisters and three brothers. But her mother, Caroline, 37, said that the note Athena bequeathed the family will help ensure that her memory stays very much alive.
“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 said. "Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us, she had such an incredible spirit."
Read an expanded excerpt from Athena's message, below:
“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.”