Woman completes her father’s bucket list 19 years after he was killed in a car accident

She discovered the list in 2016, 13 years after his death in a car accident, and vowed to complete all 60 of her father’s wishes.

Unexpectedly losing our parents can be a life-changing experience. At the age of 54, Laura Carney’s father, Michael “Mick” Carney, was killed in an accident caused by a distracted driver. It left a huge void in the lives of Laura and her brother, David. Laura was 25 years old when her father was killed by a 17-year-old driver who was talking on the phone at a red light in Limerick, Pennsylvania. Laura Carney was given the opportunity to reconnect with her late father 13 years after his death. She discovered a tattered letter in her father’s possessions that turned out to be a bucket list. Steven Seighman, Carney’s husband, told The Washington Post, “She had been wanting to find a way to understand her dad a little better. As soon as we saw the list, it was immediately like, this is it.” 

Carney stated that the list was created in 1978, her birth year. It included 60 activities, five of which had already been completed, such as “do a comedy monologue in a nightclub” and “see a World Series game live.” One was labeled “failed” — “pay my dad $1,000 + interest.”  This left Carney with 54 tasks to complete before embarking on a beautiful journey to learn more about her father. She finally checked off the last item on December 27, five years and eleven months after the discovery. She stated, “It was a thing I needed to do so I could get back in touch with my real self. I was still carrying this grief and this trauma, and I had no idea that I was.” 

The list is titled “Things I Want to Do in My Life!” The tasks range from the simple, like “swim the width of a river” and “grow a watermelon,” to the more demanding, such as “correspond with the pope” and “be invited to a political convention.” Several travel goals are also included, such as trips to New Orleans, San Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago, Paris, London, and Vienna. At first, the list appeared intimidating, especially since some items appeared to be out of reach, such as meeting with the President. Carney, on the other hand, appeared unfazed and determined.

“I didn’t talk about it,” Carney stated of her father’s death. “I really had some shame about it, because it felt like such an undignified way to die.”  However, a few years later, she became an advocate for safe driving, writing articles, raising funds, and giving presentations and interviews on the subject. While her activism provided her with a sense of purpose, the trauma of her father’s death lingered. Carney, a copywriter and freelance writer, saw the bucket list as an unexpected way to work through her grief and reconnect with her father. She gave herself a four-year deadline, expecting to finish the last piece by 2020. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, her vacation plans were pushed back two years.

She’d already signed up for a marathon, so “run 10 miles straight” was checked off her list. Talking with the President was another early task she completed. President Jimmy Carter, who would have been President at the time her father compiled the list, taught Sunday school in Georgia, she discovered. She boarded a plane to meet him. Carney completed several tasks on her own, including a two-week trip to Europe, but “it didn’t really feel like I was doing things alone,” she said.  When she was doing these things, she could always feel her father’s presence.

Completing the bucket list allowed Carney to get to know her father in ways she hadn’t previously had the opportunity or expected. “These were his goals and his dreams. It helped me understand him better, to see him as a full human being instead of just my embarrassing dad. And doing that helped me to understand myself,” she said. “Until I found the list, I thought I was more like my mom. As I did the list, these parts of me would emerge that were very much like him.”