‘Dear Emma:’ Father battling cancer leaving daughter a legacy with napkin notes

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- When a simple note becomes a life’s mission it can change lives. Garth Callaghan is a Henrico father who is leaving his daughter a lasting legacy on paper.

Garth Callaghan received news no one ever wants to hear. The Henrico man was diagnosed with cancer six years ago. It would be the first of four diagnoses.

Fearing he would not live long, he wanted his daughter, Emma, to know how much he loved her and cared for her as she grew up. So, Garth started writing hundreds of notes on napkins and did not stop.

‘Dear Emma:’ Father battling cancer leaving daughter a legacy with napkin notes

Garth Callaghan and Emma 3

Some of Garth’s simple notes are original while other phrases were borrowed from authors like Dr. Seuss, Maya Angelou or Mr. Rogers.

The notes would be placed in Emma’s school lunch through her high school graduation. Garth wrote 826 notes in total.

“When I started writing Napkin Notes I didn’t think it was a legacy. I thought it was a nice thing to do and maybe I could do this instead of putting a pudding cup in Emma’s lunch bag. It is absolutely my legacy now. It is my purpose,” said Garth.

Now Garth’s Napkin Notes have been turned into a book and New Line Cinema has purchased the rights to Garth’s story with Reese Witherspoon serving as the executive producer.

“Little did we know through a few more cancer notices from our doctor and someone writing a story about us that Napkin Notes would take on a life of its own,” said Garth.

The 48-year-old said as he battles cancer he hopes his notes encourage others to connect in meaningful ways.

“I’m saying, ‘Hey, if you like our story and think of what we do has some meaning you can grab your own pen and your own disposable napkin and write a note to your own child. It doesn’t have to be great. It can say,’ ‘I Love You’ or ‘Have a great Day.’”

Garth’s daughter Emma is an 18-year-old senior at Hermitage High School. Garth said he has his good days and bad days as he fights kidney cancer. But thinking about his Napkin Notes always gives him strength. If you would like to learn more about Garth’s journey, click here.

Watch CBS 6 News at 11 p.m. Fridays for Greg McQuade’s “I Have A Story” reports. If you know of someone Greg should feature in my “I Have A Story” segment email him.

‘Dear Emma:’ Father battling cancer leaving daughter a legacy with napkin notes

Watch "I Have A Story" Fridays on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m. If you know of someone with an interesting story we should tell, email [email protected]

37.505933 -77.332443