“Happiness is a direction, not a destination.”

What could be more sad than a child facing down a terminal illness? Athena Orchard was not even a teen when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of osteosarcoma, a commmon type of bone cancer and the sixth most common cancer found in children, which killed her when she was just 13. Although her family experienced overwhelming sadness throughout her illness, it was only when her parents, Dean and Caroline Orchard, began to sort through her belongings that they felt the deepest pain. As The Telegraph reported, it was only then they discovered the true thoughts and feelings of their sweet girl. She’d secretly been writing a 3,000-word message to her family on the back of her bedroom mirror.

“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.” -Athena Orchard

Her stay-at-home mother described her daughter to the Daily Mirror as “beautiful and athletic” and “the bravest person I know.” “We knew that Athena loved to write, that was part of who she was, it made her happy,” her mother Caroline, 37, explained to The Telegraph. “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.”

“Life is only bad if you make it bad.” -Athena Orchard

Her father, Dean, 33, is the one who discovered the secret message along with a box full of songs Athena had written in her bedroom at their house in Leicester, England. “It was a stand-up mirror in her room, and it was always lent up against the wall so we never saw behind it,” Dean told The Telegraph. “When I moved the mirror after she died I couldn’t believe it, I saw all this writing… I started reading it, but before long I had to stop because it was too much. It was heartbreaking.”

“Maybe it's not about the happy ending, maybe it's about the story.” -Athena OrchardJust before Christmas, Athena had collapsed in the kitchen of her family’s home. Rushed to the hospital, an emergency seven-and-a-half hour operation removed a tumor on her spine. This was followed by months of chemotherapy targeting the disease which had spread to her shoulder and head. Eventually, she lost her hair and a great deal of strength. Her family said the one she never lost was her positive outlook. Reading her words, it is clear the world is less bright for the passing of this gentle spirit.

“People gonna hate you, rate you, break you, but how strong you stand, that’s what makes you… you!” -Athena Orchard