Woman finds dad's bucket list years after his death, vows to complete it: 'It's what I was meant to do'
Inside a small, leather pouch, nestled among a few trinkets, were three pages ripped from a spiral notebook, written in her father's barely legible penmanship.
Laura Carney looked at her brother, Dave, in confusion. "Do you know anything about this?" she asked.
The 38-year-old copy editor had never seen the pages before, and her father had been dead for 13 years. But there was Mick Carney's bucket list — 60 items covering both sides of three sheets of lined paper.
"Things I would like to do in my lifetime!" he had written in 1978, the year Laura was born. Her father was 29.
At the top of the wish list: "I would like to live a long healthy life at least to the year 2020."
But he only made it to 2003, when a 17-year-old on her cell phone ran a red light and plowed into Mick Carney's car on a summer day in Pennsylvania. He was 54.
His daughter's heart will always bear the loss. She has forgiven the girl who took her father's life, she said, and has become an advocate against distracted driving.
And with the list, she's found another way to honor her father. She and her brother are now on a quest to check off every item on it. She is documenting their journey in a blog, "My Father's List."
Her dad only checked off five, including including attending a World Series game and helping his parents when they retired.
He should have also ticked off No. 12, his daughter said. "Give my children the most love, the best education and best example I can give."
As Laura and her brother poured over the items, they recognized some as their own achievements.
"Recording five songs" was a goal her brother had achieved while part of a chorus group in college.
Some of their father's aspirations were practical, like, "Type 40 words a minute."
Others were whimsical: "Make my wife feel happy... pretty and young all her life."
A few were fantastical: "Correspond with the pope. Talk with the president."
"There must have been some spiritual, serendipitous thing that happened that made it show up when it did," she told InsideEdition.com.
Her brother had been given a bag of their father's belongings not long after he died, but it remained unopened until recently, when he was in the midst of moving to a new home. When Dave saw the stack of papers inside, he put them back, wanting to read them with his sister.
As they did, Laura heard her dad "saying to me, 'Here's your chapters, do each of these things.'"
Laura recently checked off one of those chapters: "Run 10 straight miles."
She had already completed the New York Marathon in her personal quest to raise awareness about the horrors that can come from texting and talking on cell phones while behind the wheel.
"Like most people, I had believed that multitasking was a skill and that some were better at it than others," she wrote in a 2016 article in The Washington Post. "I didn't know yet that no one is really capable of using a phone and focusing on driving. I didn't know that distractions can overload the brain and make safe driving nearly impossible."
When her father died, Laura said she didn't know what to do with herself. She had just moved to New York City to begin her own dream of becoming a writer.
"I felt like, 'What do I do?'" she told InsideEdition.com this week. "'Do I stay here? Do I keep going with this?'"
She decided to stay the course, knowing it was what her father would have wanted.
"My dad encouraged me to do this. He was so excited for me [that] I was doing this," she said.
So no doubt he would have been proud when she checked off another item from his list: "Get my picture in a national magazine." Laura wrote about her father's bucket list for Good Housekeeping, where she is a staff member.
She has committed to fulfilling the rest of her dad's wishes by 2020, the year he'd hoped to see as a healthy, elderly man.
The next thing she plans to check as "done" is swimming the width of a river, his daughter says.
"I feel more alive than I've ever felt," she said. "I feel like this is what I was meant to do."