In Completing Her Late Father's Bucket List, Daughter Faces Mortality: 'I Had Something That Needed to Heal'

"Talk with the president,” “correspond with the Pope” and “swim the width of a river” were three of the 54 seemingly impossible tasks Laura Carney set out to accomplish on behalf of her father, Mick Carney. 

After finishing her dad’s bucket list, Laura Carney collapsed into her husband’s arms. She couldn’t believe she had completed it. “Talk with the president,” “correspond with the Pope” and “swim the width of a river” were three of the 54 seemingly impossible tasks she set out to accomplish on behalf of her father, Mick Carney. 

When I first started this project, I thought the main reason I needed to do this was (so I could bring) awareness to how my father died,” she tells Inside Edition Digital. “I didn't realize that I actually had something inside of me that needed to heal. There was grief that I hadn't really dealt with.”

Laura was in her early 20s in 2003 when her dad was killed by a distracted 17-year-old girl who was on her cell phone when she ran a red light. 

Laura never got to experience some of the quintessential father-daughter moments in her lifetime, like having him walk her down the aisle at her wedding. But Mick Carney still managed to give Laura the greatest wedding gift she could ever imagine. 

In 2017, around the time she was to be married, Laura found her father’s barely legible penmanship scrawled across three pages ripped from a spiral notebook that were tucked inside a small, leather pouch nestled among a few trinkets.

Laura Carney

The 39-year-old copy editor had never seen the pages before. But there was Mick Carney's 60-item-long bucket list. "Things I would like to do in my lifetime!" he had written in 1978, the year Laura was born. Her father was 29 at the time.

At the top of the wish list: "I would like to live a long healthy life, at least to the year 2020."

Her dad only checked off five of the items on the list, including attending a World Series baseball game and helping his parents when they retired. He deserved to have also ticked off No. 12, his daughter said, which read: “Give my children the most love, the best education and best example I can give.”

With encouragement from her new husband, Laura committed to fulfilling the rest of her dad’s wishes by 2020. It’s the year he’d hoped to see as a healthy, elderly man. She extended her deadline after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

“By the time the pandemic started, I had actually checked off 31 of the 54 items,” she says. “So I definitely was like, ‘Oh my god. This isn't something I expected. How am I going to do this?’”

She was able to check off “sing at my daughter’s wedding,” thanks to a 1974 bottle of Cabernet he deemed “the best wine America ever made” as a wine distributor in the 1970s. “So being a writer, the way I understood that was sort of like our stomachs were singing because we drank this wine,” she says. “So that's how he sang at my wedding.”

Laura Carney

She put off the items she deemed the scariest on the list, including driving a Corvette. 

“I had a panic attack,” she admits. “It ended up being about 20 minutes from that intersection where he died. I was very worried that I was going to somehow drive through it.”

The most fun thing she did was grow a watermelon that she named Audrey II after “Little Shop of Horrors.” 

The entire experience was eye-opening and something Laura never knew she needed to feel more fulfilled in life. Now, Laura is working on a memoir about her experience. “My Father’s List” will be released on July 11. 

“I’m just much more centered in who I am as a person and I understand myself better. A lot of these (items on the) lists, like skydiving or surfing or swimming the river or going sailing by myself, it required that I faced these fears that I had of my own mortality,” she explains. “Once I actually did them, I realized a lot of the fears I was carrying were sort of just based on misconceptions about things.”

Laura Carney

And the most ironic part about this entire journey is that while it took her all over the world –  to places like Vienna, Berlin, St. Thomas, and even the Super Bowl – it ended at home.

In December, Laura recorded five of the songs her dad frequently sang to her. She recorded them from her home. 

“My dad was a singer, so it seemed really appropriate that ended up being the last one,” she said.

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