Garth Callaghan, a 44-year-old business development manager at an IT staffing company, has been writing daily notes for his daughter, Emma, and leaving them in her lunch bag for the last nine years. The notes began as a way for the father-daughter duo to stay connected throughout their busy days, but they took on new meaning after Callaghan was diagnosed with prostate cancer and kidney cancer (the latter twice) starting in November 2011. While Callaghan is staying positive, he knows there's a chance he won't live to see Emma graduate and has decided to make the notes his legacy, in the hopes of leaving his daughter with the best guidance possible. So far, Callaghan has written 780 notes and has about 40 more to go (since he's stockpiled so many). He gives Emma one per day and has stockpiled the rest for her to read either in one sitting or one every day after he's gone.
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"These notes are my safety net," Callaghan tells Yahoo Shine. "I hope to be around long enough to write Emma's own children notes, but if that doesn't happen, my promise to her is that she'll always have a note." In addition to Callaghan's own musings, many of the notes include wise words from people who've had an impact on the world — from Gandhi to J.K. Rowling. (You can check out all of the notes at Callaghan's blog, The Napkin Notes Dad.)
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"I will easily spend 20 minutes thinking about the specific message I'd like to send her that day," he says. "They always relate to something she's going through, whether it's a sports event, a test at school, or a conflict she's having with a friend. I love that she's in eighth grade and she's not embarrassed to get a note from her dad."
Emma has been saving the notes she's received so far in an album and has recently begun to return the favor, writing her first note to her father in January. That one read, "If my friends really did jump off a cliff, it's because it was my idea. Sincerely, your daughter is a leader, not a follower. PS. I think you used all the napkins <3."
But as amazing as Callaghan's relationship with his daughter is, he insists that his story is less about him and Emma — or even the decisions he's made in the face of cancer — and more about the importance of parents' relationships with their kids. "We all lead such busy lives, so it's important to take time each day to connect," he says. "I want parents to know that it's as simple as taking time out to write a quick note."
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