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"Love is something that never dies": Completing her father's bucket list

A daughter ticks off her late father's bucket list
A daughter ticks off her late father's bucket list 05:16

In her small apartment in Montclair, N.J., Laura Carney's dreams are coming true, just like her father always knew they would, even if unaware of exactly the role he'd play. Laura's first book – "My Father's List: How Living My Dad's Dreams Set Me Free" – was just published, a dream born of a nightmare 20 years ago, when Mick Carney was killed in a car crash at the age of 54.

"I remember thinking how angry I was that he didn't finish his life," Laura said, "that he didn't get to do all the things he set out to do."

He was, she said, the best dad – a sensitive, sentimental, and, like so many of our fathers, complicated man.  Laura said, "'You're the best thing I've ever done' – that's what he said all the time."

But he also left her a lot to sift through, as when he split from her mom when Laura was just six years old. Axelrod asked, "Was there something you had to overcome?"

"Oh, of course," she replied. "I believed he abandoned us for a long time."

What she's sifted through the last six years is a list of all those things Mick Carney set out to do – sixty items he wrote down when he was 29. He'd only had a chance to try six when he was killed.

Mick Carney's bucket list, written when he was 29 years old. He died in 2003 at the age of 54. Laura Carney

Axelrod asked, "What do you think the value of writing a bucket list is?"

She replied, "Not only are you writing down your intentions for your life, but you're also committing to showing the world who you are authentically. So, even if you don't finish it, maybe your kids find it someday, and then they know what you cared about, and that matters."

When her brother found the list in 2016, Laura said, "I couldn't help but notice 'Talk with the president' right away!"

Mick's bucket list also included "Correspond with the pope." "Run 10 miles straight." "Swim the width of a river." "Surf in the Pacific Ocean." "Go to the Rose Bowl."

It was, she admitted, intimidating: "And then I just got this image in the back of my mind of my dad's face smiling and nodding; that never happened before. So, that was the thing that really made me feel like, Oh, I need to do this."

But when she and her husband, Steven, headed to Georgia, at Jimmy Carter's Sunday service, daunted turned to inspired. "I said, 'President Carter, my father wrote down that he wanted to meet you on his bucket list, and I'm checking that off for him today.' And he said, 'Oh, very good!'  This was the most impossible list item, and we did it. And I think everything changed after that, because if I could do the most impossible one, then what was to stop me from doing the rest?"

After Laura Carney was able to tick off "Talk with the president" from her father's bucket list, the other items seemed less daunting. Laura Carney

Ever since, she's been checking them off: "Have five songs recorded." "Go sailing by myself." "Skydive at least once." "Own a black tux."

"Skydive at least once."  CBS News

Axelrod asked, "Was any part of you, as you would read this, be like, 'Come on, Dad'?"

"Yeah!" Laura laughed. "But when I would be in the middle of doing them, I just had this feeling that my dad wouldn't let me fail."

Maybe the most challenging for this reluctant driver: hopping behind the wheel of a Corvette. "I took it slow," she said. "I knew it was the same highway where my dad's crash had happened."

"Drive a Corvette." CBS News

But the challenge was where the healing was. Laura said. "I felt like I now could associate a new memory with driving. And the car phobia went away. Then all of a sudden, I was taking long trips and driving myself! I changed the narrative. My dad and I weren't victims of something anymore."

With the help of her long-gone father, Laura was learning to re-think her approach to life.

Post Hill Press

Axelrod said, "Underpinning this entire list is, do things to enjoy doing them."

"That's right, which I wasn't doing."

"Your dad was teaching you, through this list, that you derive pleasure from the doing, not how well you do it, from the doing of it?"

"It opened my heart, which had been shut down," Laura said.

So, now Laura Carney is sharing what she learned by completing the list: how she made her connection to her father's memory 54 times tighter, and found peace in the process.

She said, "I'm not stuck in that day when he died anymore. Now I'm living in the present. And I'm going and doing all these incredibly fun things.

"Everybody has that possibility to still have that connection" she said. "Because even though people die, love is something that never dies."

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Story produced by Young Kim. Editor: Mike Levine. 

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