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White Sheets of Love: Father Sends His Daughter a Message Through Napkins

( [email protected] ) Jan 28, 2014 02:29 PM EST
What would you do for your kids if you had less than five years to live? What big plan do you have to show your family how much you love them? Hopefully it doesn't involve anything close to what Walter White did in Breaking Bad. Garth Callaghan, 44, would tell you that committing yourself to the little things would leave a big impact on someone's life, little things like writing inspiring notes on a napkin and leaving them in your daughter's lunchbox every school day.
Emma and her dad. (Napkinnotesdad.com)

What would you do for your kids if you had less than five years to live? What big plan do you have to show your family how much you love them? Hopefully it doesn't involve anything close to what Walter White did in Breaking Bad. Garth Callaghan, 44, would tell you that committing yourself to the little things would leave a big impact on someone's life, little things like writing inspiring notes on a napkin and leaving them in your daughter's lunchbox every school day.

For the past two years Garth Callaghan was diagnosed with kidney cancer twice (which he fought) and is currently living with a prostate cancer. Although the kidney cancer is no longer in his system, the prostate cancer has grown to the point his doctors told him he has less than an eight percent chance of surviving the next five years. Knowing that his time on Earth was limited, Callaghan wanted to show his daughter how much he loves her before he departs. Every school day, he slipped a motivational message written on a sheet of napkin into his daughter's, Emma, lunchbox before she heads out to school.

"This isn't a story about cancer, because any parent at any time could be hit by a car or have a heart attack," he told Today.com. "This is really about leaving a legacy so that she can understand some of my life philosophies and how much I love her."

The father first began doing this when his daughter was in kindergarten. Since Emma was not an advanced reader at that time, Callaghan kept the message simple using easy words, symbols, and drawings to encourage his daughter. Now he is on a mission to complete 826 napkin notes, enough notes to last his eighth grade daughter all the way up to her high school graduation. Callaghan was inspired to do this after coming across a non-profit group called "because I said I would," an organization that stresses the significance of keeping promises.

Nowadays Emma would look into her lunchbox and find quotes by Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Seuss, the Bible, Chinese proverbs, Billie Jean King, and other historical figures. Sometimes the napkin would feature words by her father himself. A sweet one he wrote read, "Dear Emma, Sometimes when I need a miracle I look into your eyes and realize I've already created one. Love, Dad."

"I love napkin notes for a couple reasons, not just the obvious ones such as knowing my dad is thinking about me or learning a new quotes," Emma said. "I love them because they remind me not to take things for granted, because my dad started getting serious with them when he had cancer for the first time."

Callaghan has now been writing more notes ahead of time in case anything happens to him in the future in order to ensure that his daughter continues receiving fatherly advice even when he's gone. As of Jan. 24, he has completed 740 notes and has 86 more to go.

He has compiled most of the napkin notes he has written into an e-book for the Kindle in response to parents asked him for help via Facebook on how to make similar connections with their children. He hopes to release a second edition of the book with all 826 notes and an epilogue dedicated to his daughter. Though he has connected with his daughter by talking about video games and technology and dressing up as Jedis from Star Wars at a daddy/daughter superhero dance, Callaghan has maintained his presence in his daughter's life through every little napkin that slips in her lunchbox.