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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