I put off reading Napkin Notes until I felt the time was right. I knew Garth Callaghan’s story would resonate powerfully with me after losing my dad when he was still fairly young. (I mentioned my hesitancy to tackle this international bestselling book in a recent post: Handwritten Notes, Simple Prayers, and Redemptive Suffering.)
Reading Napkin Notes reminded me of the book The Last Lecture in which Randy Pausch, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, gives suggestions, encouragement, and inspiration to his children about how to live a meaningful life. Some of the messages about being yourself, making good choices, and living in such a way that others are uplifted by your life are covered in both books.
My dad died just 16 days after he turned 54. He didn’t live long enough to see my youngest sister graduate from high school or meet his first grandchild.
In some ways, my dad’s life and Garth Callaghan’s have been similar. Both hailed from upstate New York, were raised Roman Catholic, and served as altar boys back in the day. Each of them became successful businessmen known for their can-do attitude and perseverance. A fondness for alcohol, willingness to travel for work and an innate desire to provide financial security and stability for their families drove them to keep going long after others would have quit physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually.
While still in his 40s, Garth had been diagnosed with kidney cancer twice, prostate cancer once, and told he has an 8 percent chance of living past five years. He and his wife Lissa have one child, a daughter named Emma, who he feared he might not be alive to see graduate from high school.
Suddenly, a daily practice he started while Emma was still a little girl became even more meaningful to both the writer and the recipient of these little lunchtime notes. Garth decided that he would write enough napkin notes that even if he doesn’t live to or through her senior year of high school, Emma will still have a napkin note from her dad for each day of school she has from now through graduation. He did the math and determined he would need to complete 826 napkin notes in order to reach his goal.
The written word is powerful, especially in the digital age, where most people would sooner send a text, post a message on a Facebook wall, or shoot someone an e-mail than sit down and handwrite a note, card, or letter to a loved one.
What a gift that Emma has a father who desires so much to be there for and with her as she goes through life. What a blessing that Garth Callaghan has been inspired to do something each day to reach out in love to his daughter. And what good fortune that the message about the importance of connecting daily with loved ones has been spread far and wide.
I highly recommend Napkin Notes, the book and the concept of reaching out now, even in the simplest ways, to let your loved ones know how much you care about them. Click here to read more about Garth Callaghan, Napkin Notes, watch one of his many TV interviews, and/or to meet the man behind the napkins.