TIME Family

Dad Is Prepping Over 800 Napkin Notes for Daughter’s Lunchbox Before He Dies

Leaving napkin notes in his daughter's lunchbox is one dad's way of showing his daughter that he's thinking about her at school.

A father who has received three cancer diagnoses may not know how long he has to live, but in the time he has left, he is making sure that his daughter will find an inspiration message in her lunchbox every day until she graduates high school.

W. Garth Callaghan of Glen Allen, Virginia — aka “Napkin Note Dad” — has been writing tips and famous quotes on napkins and putting them in his daughter Emma’s lunchbox since she was in elementary school. Now his goal is to prepare 826 napkin notes, and photos on Imgur catalogue his progress, with help from the non-profit “because I said I would,” which promotes the importance of keeping promises. And recently, the 14-year-old has been writing napkin notes back to her dad, such as “an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backwards, so when life is dragging you back, it means it’s going to launch you into something awesome.”

In September, Callaghan created a Facebook page for his “Napkin Notes” and published a Kindle eBook, hoping to inspire more parents to “Pack. Write. Connect.” or adopt a similar ritual at home. Adults who need a little inspiration can check out his Twitter account @wgarth, where today he tweeted pictures of napkins with quotes by the legendary movie star Audrey Hepburn and the late hockey coach Herb Brooks, who coached the U.S. hockey team that defeated the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice” game at the 1980 Winter Olympics.

To explain what drives him to write these messages to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he recalled a revelation he had in 2011 before undergoing surgery after he received a kidney cancer diagnosis and was preparing to undergo surgery: “‘at the end of the day, these notes might be the only thing my daughter has left of me.’”

(h/t 22 Words)

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