The worst day of my life was ten years ago today.
It was the day my wonderful, smart and caring mother died. She didn’t have cancer or a long-term illness — the health reasons she died from were complicated and came out of nowhere, hitting me like a ton of bricks. The next day, I went into school to take my GCSE science exam, but I couldn’t concentrate on my biology paper as I was too busy trying to remember what my mum looked like the last time I saw her alive.
Four years later, my father died. My parents divorced when I was young, and I barely knew him. And so, by the age of twenty, myself and my seven siblings were parentless.
I don’t want to go into detail about my loss. I don’t go into detail about the immense pain that comes with having no parents. I don’t want to talk about how much I miss my mum. I can’t talk about how it feels when everyone around you refuses to address death. In my mind I’ve thought about all of these things a thousand times, but I can’t write a word of it down because it’s still too raw.
Here’s the only thing I can think of doing today.
Every so often I stumble onto one of those “Things You Must Do Before You Die” lists, the ones that tell you about the adventures you have to take, the high-adrenaline sports you have to try, and the beautiful landmarks you must see. What never makes it onto those lists are the things like, “get to know your parents well.” I don’t think I’ll regret not going sky-diving, or visiting the Antarctic. However, I will always regret that I didn’t get the chance to find out everything I could about my parents.
With that in mind, I thought of a handful of questions I would ask them if they were alive today. As I can’t, I hope you consider asking them to your parents instead.
Who did they first fall in love with?
How many times have they been in love?
How did they feel when they first became pregnant with you?
Why did they want children?
What was their time at school like?
What did they want to do or be when they were young?
What have been the happiest moments of their life?
What makes them laugh more than anything?
What do they love about themselves?
What do they love doing that they aren’t doing?
What is their best memory of you?
What is something they’ve never told anyone else before?
Have they ever broken the law?
What do they hate more than anything?
What are their favourite records they’ve owned?
What song could they listen to 100 times in a row?
What was their first car?
What is the best book they’ve ever read?
What is a favourite dish they order every-time at a restaurant?
When have they felt most vulnerable?
What are they most proud of?
What is their biggest regret?
Where do they find peace?
Do they, or have they ever, believed in God?
What is their favourite place they’ve visited?
Where do they want you to visit in the world?
What advice did their parents give them?
What’s the one thing that changed their life the most?
What world event had the most impact on them?
When keeps them awake at night?
What do they think of the world we live in?
I can’t pick up the phone to talk to my mum, and I‘ll never be able to get to know my dad. All I can do is encourage others — my friends, family, you — to find out the answers to those questions you’ve never asked your parents before it’s too late.