It was a six year long soul searching journey.

“I didn’t talk about it.”

Indeed, it had been 13 long, painful years for Laura Carney. At age 38, a mix of pain and shame at how senseless it was kept it all buried inside. 

Per the Washington Post, her father had been tragically killed by a distracted driver using their cell phone. While Carney did some activist work to help herself and others like her get past the grief, her heart was still heavy. 

It might have stayed that way if not for a chance discovery that would alter her life forever.

The Discovery That Changed a Woman’s Life

Carney’s brother David was at her house when he found a brown suede pouch. Inside was their late father’s driver’s license, a ring, some trinkets, and…a letter.

It was dated 1987, the year Laura was born. There, on tattered paper, was a list titled ‘Things I would like to do in my lifetime.’ Carney was holding none other than her late father Michael ‘Mick’ Carney’s bucket list.

Carney turned, looked at husband Steven Seighman and without words both knew what had to be done. “I needed to finish it. This is what I’m supposed to do,” she recalled.

A Daughter’s Journey to Finish Her Dad’s Bucket List

Of the 60 total items, 5 were checked off, including ‘do a comedy monologue in a nightclub’ and ‘see a World Series game live.’ One was marked “failed” — ‘pay back my dad $1,000 plus interest.’ That left 54 items for Carney to complete.

Some were relatively easy, which she says “happened organically.” For example, since she’d already signed up for a marathon, that took care of ‘running for 10  miles straight.’

Like most bucket lists, there were several travel goals, including trips to New Orleans, San Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago, Paris, London and Vienna. Others were, ‘Swim the width of a river’ and ‘Grow a watermelon.’

Then followed the more daunting ones. For example, how does one go about having a ‘Talk with the president’ or ‘Correspond with the Pope’? She had her work cut out for her, but nothing stop a daughter’s date with destiny.

President Jimmy Carter — who would have been president when Carney’s father wrote the list — taught Sunday school in Georgia. And so, she packed her bags and met the US’s 39th President in person.

A Father’s Bucket List Completed

Then finally, six soul-searching years later ended with success as she checked off her father’s last item: ‘Have five songs recorded.’ In a studio, she recorded her father’s favorites including Jim Henson’s “The Rainbow Connection” and The Beatles’ “Good Night.”

Carney said that her wild ride completing it gave her the motivation to make her own bucket list.

“I really encourage everybody to write down what they want to do,” she said. “It helps you start living more intentionally, and when you’re living intentionally, you feel more of a sense of purpose in your life.”

How a Dad Reminds Us to Live For Now but Remember Our Heart

Carney said that the process has helped her finally deal with the grief while reconnecting her with herself and her father.

“It was a thing I needed to do so I could get back in touch with my real self,” she said. “I was still carrying this grief and this trauma, and I had no idea that I was.”

Indeed, Seighman said that watching his wife go through the list was “like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.”

Do we ever stop to wonder how much of our own self-sabotage comes from our own unresolved lists? It might be that tough talk we put off having, or telling someone how much we love them.

If Carney’s story teaches us one thing, it’s to live with a sense of urgency so we don’t leave any boxes unchecked and know that we’re never alone for the ride.