Father died at 54 years old; 14 years later, his children uncover a secret he never shared with anyone

After his death, his secret was kept hidden for over a decade.

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  • She was only talking on the phone, but that's all it took. The 17-year-old girl ran a red light and smashed into Michael Carney's car. It killed him instantly.

  • The 54-year-old left behind his two children, David Carney and Laura Carney.

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  • 14 years later David uncovered one of his father's best-kept secrets

  • Laura was visiting her brother when he pulled out a handwritten list written by their father. At the top it read, "Things I would like to do in my lifetime" with an enthusiastic exclamation mark at the end.

  • Only five of the 60 items were marked off. As they read through each listing and chuckled at his "indecipherable handwriting," one goal in particular stood out to Laura. It read, "Give my children the most love, the best education and best example I can give."

  • "He never checked that one off, but he should have," Laura said. "It's the reason my brother and I are doing this: We're finishing the list."

  • David and Laura never knew about their father's bucket list

  • This bucket list was a treasure they didn't know their father had; he had never talked about it. After talking with their mother, they found out Michael started the list at 29 years old - the year Laura was born.

  • Their father had a few challenging goals like corresponding with the pope and talking with the president but Laura says she's up to the challenge. Though she doesn't know yet how that will happen, she believes it is possible. Laura and David are determined to accomplish all of their father's goals.

  • The siblings set a goal to finish the bucket list by 2020

  • The first thing he wrote down was, "I would like to live a long, healthy life at least to the year 2020."

  • He didn't get the chance to live to 2020, but his children vowed to finish every goal on his bucket list by that year. Since discovering the bucket list in November 2016, David and Laura have already accomplished a few of the goals.

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  • One of the goals was to have his picture in a national magazine. As a copy editor for Good Housekeeping, Laura wrote and published her father's story along with a section about preventing distracted driving.

  • Just checked off item 31 for my dad on myfatherslist.com: "Get my picture in a national magazine." There he is on pages...

    Posted by Laura Carney on Thursday, March 9, 2017
  • She also checked off "run 10 miles straight" with the help of her friend Kelly Solis at Girls on the Run in Los Angeles. They finished in just over two hours.

  • I did it! I ran 10 miles straight! Just checked off My Father's List item 23. (Post to come.) Hope the other items are...

    Posted by Laura Carney on Sunday, March 19, 2017
  • Laura and David will continue to check off items on the bucket list until it's complete, at which point Laura said she might create one of her own.

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  • The events leading up to finding the bucket list helped Laura cope with grief and find purpose

  • The teen driver who caused the accident claimed the light turned green as she drove through it, but witnesses said the light was red. Years later, in 2013, Laura discovered the shocking truth that helped her forgive the distracted driver.

  • She read a story about another person who passed because of a distracted driver. But this article pointed out one fact Laura had never realized before: distracted driving overloads the brain and makes it almost impossible to drive safely.

  • "I realized then that the teenager who killed my father insisted the traffic light had been green because that's the color she thought she saw," Laura said. "Distraction made the traffic light virtually invisible."

  • Laura's mind swarmed with thoughts about what she could do to prevent other people from having to go through the same devastating experience. It was then that she decided to become part of the solution.

  • She became a distracted driving awareness activist, and has since published several articles and given many speeches to spread awareness about distracted driving.

  • "I write and speak about it whenever I can, and it's helped me forgive the girl who killed my dad," she said. "It's also helped me move beyond horror to find purpose, and I hope finishing this list will do the same."

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  • Laura shares her and her brother's journey on her blog, My Father's List.

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  • Despite strong efforts to combat distracted driving, the number of deaths from car accidents continues to rise

  • An estimated 40,000 people died from car accidents in 2016, which is a 14 percent increase from 2014. That's the most dramatic escalation seen in the last 53 years, the National Safety Council reports.

  • You can do your part by being aware of how distracted driving affects your safety and the safety of the people around you.

  • Arrive alive by taking these important precautions

    • Put your phone away. If the call or text is important, have a passenger take care of it or pull to the side of the road.

    • Put your phone in airplane mode if it's too much of a temptation.

    • As a passenger, if you see the driver pick up their phone, say something.

    • Avoid eating while driving. Eating (and spilling food) is a major distraction.

    • Don't multitask. Turn on your music, put on your mascara and send your "on my way" text before backing out of the driveway.

  • Don't let distractions put you at risk for an accident; distracted driving can be prevented if you keep your eyes on the road.

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Shaelynn Miller is a staff writer for FamilyShare who has a passion for writing, video production and photography.

Website: http://shaelynnmiller.weebly.com/

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