Today is All Soul’s Day – a day a lot of Christians remember and pray for in a special way for the souls of their dear departed. I’m not one to visit cemeteries, unless it’s for a funeral, but it’s the usual custom for people to go and visit the graves of their loved ones. I prefer to stay at home and think of my departed loved ones and pray that they are at peace. If there’s one big regret after the passing of my parents it’s the big gap in information that I have about them and their parents. While I can safely say, I did know them rather well, there are questions I wish I had asked my parents long before they passed.
I’ve been watching a show on television called Long Lost Family which helps reunite family members who’ve been lost for various reasons. Often it’s people who’ve been adopted as babies and are desperately searching for their parents or siblings. While the series features reunions, I’m sure there are thousands of people who have zero connection with their family of origin. They miss out on family history, often feeling like something is missing even when they’ve had loving adoptive families.
To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.– Chinese Proverb
Those of us who’ve been blessed to know our parents and have them with us for a long while have memories and moments with parents that we cherish. But yet, there’s so much that is taken for granted, so much unshared, so many things unsaid and plenty of questions unasked.
Questions I Wish I Had Asked My Parents
Questions About Their Love Story and Wedding
Just to give you a small background to my parents and their families. Dad and Mum were first cousins – their mothers were sisters. Apparently they fell in love in their teens! When they did decide to get married (after Dad joined the Army and Mum’s parents started looking out for a groom for her), Mum’s father didn’t approve. I think it was more to do with the fact that he and his brother-in-law (my paternal grandfather) had a fallout, and less to do with the fact that he didn’t approve of Dad. So Mum walked out of the house to get married. I’ve heard stories of their wedding day, but somehow I missed asking about the details – like who said what, how did the families reconcile. My maternal grandfather passed away when I was just two so I have no memories of him, but I have memories of both my grandmothers, my paternal grandfather and the lovely relationship they all enjoyed.
Questions About Their Parents and Grandparents
There are a lot of questions too I wish I had asked about how my great-grandfather (my grandmothers’ father) moved to Hyderabad from Saligaon, Goa. By all accounts, he did very well for himself, establishing a thriving chemist store. Subsequently his daughters (my grandmothers) married men from the same village in Goa and they settled here too.
My maternal grandfather too had a thriving chemist business. I know that he worked for a while in Africa before moving to Hyderabad. He obviously came from a a fairly well off family, going by the house in the village. But again I have no details.
My paternal grandfather came from more humble beginnings. His father was a music teacher in the village. But my grandfather was obviously a good student and moved out to do his BA and subsequently his Engineering. He worked in the Public Works Department.
To me, it’s remarkable that these three men, established themselves so well in a new city. Why did they choose this city? How did they make contacts? What made them successful? I’ve got snatches of their stories, but I really wish I had more details.
So many more questions I wish I had asked my parents. How did my Mum cope with the pressure of not having children for 8 years after marriage? How did my Dad feel when he signed up for the Army? What thoughts went through his mind during the wars he fought?
I’m wondering why I wasn’t so interested in asking these questions when they were around. Has my curiosity been piqued by an increased awareness of my own mortality?
Brendon Burchard’s 30 Questions
Brendon Burchard is a high performance coach and personal development trainer and author of The Motivation Manifesto, The Charge, The Millionaire Messenger, and his newest, High Performance Habits. Before his father passed away, Brendon asked him around 30 questions and recorded them.
Here are the 30 questions that Brendon asked his father. If you’re lucky enough to have your parents around, perhaps you’d like to ask these and other questions to them:
1. What comes to mind when you think about growing up in [hometown]?
2. What did you love to do as a kid, before high school?
3. What did you love to do in high school?
4. What do remember most about your teenage years?
5. What do you remember most about your mom and dad?
6. What was most important to each of them?
7. If grandma and grandpa had a message to you and their grandchildren, what do you think it is?
8. How did you meet [spouse] and know (s)he was the one?
9. How did you choose your career and what was your favorite part about it?
10. What made you successful at work?
11. What did you believe about yourself that helped you become successful and deal with hard times?
12. What times in your life truly “tested your mettle,” and what did you learn about yourself by dealing (or not dealing) with them?
13. Which 3 events most shaped your life?
14. What do you remember about when each of us was born?
15. Were you ever scared to be a parent?
16. What 3 words represented your approach to parenting and why?
17. When you think about [sibling] how would you describe him?
18. What message do you have for [sibling] that you want him to always keep in mind? [Do the last two questions above for each sibling in your family]
19. When you think about [spouse], how would you describe her/him?
20. What message do you have for [spouse] that you want her/him to always keep in mind?
21. Which 3 words best describe who you tried to be in life and how you want to be remembered?
22. When they think about their careers, what do you want your children to focus on?
23. What have you learned about other people in life?
24. What do you think the world needs more of right now?
25. What do you believe people want the most in life?
26. What were the 3 best decisions you ever made?
27. What are you most proud of in life?
28. What were 5 of the most positive moments of your life?
29. What message would you like to share with your family?
30. What are you most thankful for?
What are the questions you want to ask / wish you had asked your parents?
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Lovely post! I loved the questions. I know some of my parent’s answers, my father died and my mother’s memory isn’t too good, but I’ll give it a go! I’ll also be using them for myself, self analysis is always positive, and even to ask my characters, they are a great way to get to know someone intimately. Thanks for sharing:) I love the idea of Monday Musings. I’ll try to join in. Is there a specific topic each week, or does each blogger think up their own?
Luccia Gray recently posted..Last call for #KindleDeals ‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’ #Free #AmazonBestseller #HistFic
Glad you liked this, Luccia. What a great idea to ask your characters this! 🙂
You’re welcome to join #MondayMusings – no particular topic.
Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..10 Ways To Handle Toxic Family Members
Oh I love family stories and an elopement is a great one to be able to talk about. Do you have any aunts or uncles left who could fill you in on some of the missing details?
I’m now the oldest person in my person in my family, no parents/aunts/uncles left…..cousins on both sides are all younger….so I’m the one they come to for answers. Luckily I asked lots of questions and after I left home (never to live close by again) I encouraged my sisters/brother to ask as well.
That’s a good long list there….I wonder how many I could answer for m6 children
Cathy recently posted..How can Peggy be short for Margaret….
I loved this honest post. Corinne – this could be one of those very few times I have read a personal post on this space so I am happy I stopped by to read.
Loved the honest questions and I will send to my parents and ask them to tell me this. I will then share as a blog. Great way to have parents blog about themselves, right?
Plus, something that I would like to do for myself too at some time in life. Thank you for this one. It made me ponder!
Parul Thakur recently posted..Gratitude List – October 2020
Glad you liked the post, but I’m more than a little puzzled by your comment, Parul.
So I meant how we talk about guest blogging, right? If I could get answers from Mum and Papa and post them if would like parents’ blogging 🙂 Isn’t it? 🙂
Oh that I understood. I wondered about your remark about the personal nature of my posts. Found that very surprising, really. While I do write ‘how-to’ posts, etc, and don’t write monthly updates, there’s plenty of very personal stuff on this blog. If anything, I err on the side of sharing too much.
Got it! May be I missed reading those posts. I know about the work you do, what inspires you etc. But this was the first time I read about your parents in detail so I made that remark. I am sorry if that wasn’t the right thing to say. But reading this post got me closer to knowing you.
Parul recently posted..Gratitude List – October 2020
I’m coming by to read this interesting, exhaustive piece soon.
Finally managed to join my favourite #MM after eons.
Love and cheer!
Glad you could join, Natasha.
Great idea! I really need to get on the stick to get some of these sorts of questions asked of my parents. This is something all to easy to put off until you it’s too late then you have to deal with the regret. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder.
What a beautiful post… Gave me so much to think about. My next call to my parents are going to be long one. Although I know a lot of their stories and about their life, there’s still so much I dont know about my grandparents. It would be so nice to reconnect to the past. Thank you for this post.
Rajlakshmi recently posted..How are you doing?
I loved this post, Corinne! Beautiful idea!! Your list of questions points to many an interesting bit of facts that I’d definitely love to know from my mom. We’ve had many trips down memory lane with my parents during our growing-up years. However, the most favourite stories will always be the ones that we’ve heard from our grandparents, mostly about their childhood days and their early adult years. It was magic to savour those stories, sitting by the fireside on winter nights!!!
Esha recently posted..The Waiting | #FictionMonday
This was such an insight into the relationship we share with our parents. I loved the questionnaire ..many answers I know, but so many I don’t. Will try to ask them next time I meet.
Anne from AnnesHappyClues
Hi Corrine, Thank you for a lovely reminder that our histories are wonderful. The things that people go through are incredible and there is so much courage and determination. Interestingly, I come from quite a broken family where one side doesn’t speak to the other. It’s sad and I’ve always wondered why but it’s a subject no one is allowed to bring up. I had to make my peace with the fact that I’ll never fully know our history but at the end of the day, I can’t fix other people’s pain. So now I focus on trying to practice acceptance … one day at a time 😉
I have had a very chatty relationship with my parents so there is nothing I think I have missed asking them!
Which is good I suppose:
We spoke so much as a family. Over tea, over meals, over weekends of just sitting and catching up!
Natasha recently posted..Adieu Autumn Flowers: #WordlessWednesday #WednesdayWisdom
My parents share a lot about themselves and so did my grandparents, so I guess I am lucky that way. What I would have really liked to do was ask my paternal grandmother all her home remedies and her wonderful traditional recipes. I was too young when she died and mom was too busy bringing up the four of us and looking after my grandpa who suffered from cancer. He only wanted my mom to tend to him.