Sometimes, when you turn on the TV or see what’s trending on social media, it can feel like the world is awash in negativity and bad news. Sometimes, it’s easy to wonder what kind of world we’re leaving for the next generation. But whenever I feel that way, I’m reminded of a quote I once read by a journalist named Doug Larson:
“Bad news travels fast. Good news takes the scenic route.”
With that in mind, I’ve resolved to spend more time taking the scenic route myself…by always being on the lookout for stories that inspire and news that uplifts. Recently, I came across a story that, for me, does exactly that. A story that shows how, while the news is filled with tales of tragedy, all across the world, at this very moment, there are people turning tragedy into triumph.
Twenty years ago, a woman named Laura Carney lost her father in a car accident. Another driver on a cell phone ran a red light. Only 25 at the time, Laura didn’t just lose a dad. She lost the opportunity to make decades of happy memories with him. Opportunities to see the world with him. The opportunity to dance with him at her wedding. The opportunity to show him everything she would go on to accomplish. Opportunities to make him proud.
For the next thirteen years, Laura did her best to not think about those opportunities. To just move on in life. That, she figured, was how her dad would have wanted it. But as the years passed, Laura realized that simply “trying to move on” wasn’t the same as “making it right.”
Then, one day in 2016, her brother stumbled upon a piece of paper with their dad’s handwriting on it. It was a list. But it wasn’t a to-do list. Nor was it a shopping list.
It was her dad’s bucket list.
Titled “Things I would like to do in my lifetime!”, the list was dated 1978. Her father had written it the same year everything in his life had changed. The year Laura herself was born.
At first, she didn’t realize it, but reading her father’s list was about to change her life, too.
Some of the items on the list were simple. (Grow a watermelon.) Some were breathtakingly ambitious. (Talk with the president.) Looking through it, she found a few things that had been checked off. (See a World Series game live. Do a comedy monologue in a nightclub. Be interviewed on a radio program. Own a great record collection. Help my parents enjoy their retirement. Help Laura win a scholarship. Give my children the most love, the best education, and the best example I can give.) But the majority of the list was unfulfilled.
When Laura saw the list, her heart ached that her father hadn’t had the opportunity to accomplish all his dreams. But it wasn’t just sadness she felt. It was resolve. Suddenly, Laura knew she had
been given a new opportunity with her father. The list was her responsibility to complete.
Motivated to share her idea with others, she decided to bring awareness of how he died so that other tragedies might be prevented in the future. She hoped her dad’s story would inspire others to drive more mindfully. What Laura didn’t expect was that the undertaking would help her process her grief…by teaching her to live more mindfully, too.
One by one, she worked to live the life her dad had dreamed of. She wrote and published novels. She had five songs recorded. She learned an instrument. She visited Paris, London, Berlin, and
Vienna. She ran ten miles straight and swam the width of a river. She drove a corvette, went to the Rose Bowl, skydived, went sailing by herself, and yes, grew a watermelon. She did all this and dozens more. She even spoke to the president!
But perhaps her biggest accomplishment was growing closer to her father. As she completed the items on his list, she began remembering all that he hoped and dreamed for her. As she put it:
“A lot of these, like skydiving or surfing or swimming the river or going sailing by myself, required that I face these fears that I had of my own mortality. Once I actually did them, I realized a lot of the fears I was carrying were just based on misconceptions.”
She also remembered her dad telling her, “Life is lived in the little moments.” By living his dream life, she also lived her own – because she knew he was with her every step of the way. After all, what matters in life isn’t so much what we do. It’s doing it with someone we love.
I loved reading this story, because it reminded me that even tragedy can turn into something beautiful. It reminded me that, while the news is filled with stories of loss, there are always people, every day, who turn their losses into growth. By achieving her father’s dreams,
Laura not only honored his life. She gained a greater appreciation for her own. Most of all, the story reminded me that our loved ones never truly leave us.
If you’d like to see the complete list, you can find it at www.myfatherslist.com/the-list. In the meantime, I hope you have a great month!