Garth Callaghan, Terminally Ill Dad, Writing Daughter 826 Notes to Last After He’s Gone

January 28, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

Garth Callaghan, a father with cancer, has been writing his daughter hundreds of notes so she’ll have something to remember him by when he’s gone.

Callaghan’s daughter Emma, 14, is currently in eighth grade.

He has been slipping her notes in her lunchbox since she was in kindergarten.

Since her reading was just beginning, he kept the notes short but sweet.

Callaghan, 44, said that he’s close to death and so has been writing to “napkin notes” for his daughter while he still can.

“This isn’t a story about cancer, because any parent at any time could be hit by a car or have a heart attack,” he told TODAY. “This is really about leaving a legacy so that she can understand some of my life philosophies and how much I love her.”


He has written over 700 notes and says he has only about 40 left to write. 

Along the way, he writes a brand new note that’s not included in that number for his daughter every school day.

He, his wife, and his daughter live in Virginia just outside of Richmond.

The notes range from short missives on how he loves her to quotes that have inspired him over the years.


“A good portion of the notes are literally just letters from me to her. They start out, ‘Dear Emma,’ and I say something, and then I say, ‘Love, Dad,’” he said. “ I try to mix it up because frankly, sometimes she needs to hear that yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s game, and that’s a Babe Ruth quote.”

Emma said that she appreciates the notes and that her friends enjoy reading them as well.

“I love napkin notes for a couple reasons, not just the obvious ones such as knowing my dad is thinking about me or learning a new quotes,” she told TODAY. “I love them because they remind me not to take things for granted, because my dad started getting serious with them when he had cancer for the first time.”

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