Ask Your Legacy Questions Now
Some families are rich in natural storytellers who keep their clans’ oral histories alive. Most of us today, however, are too busy and distracted by modern life to sit and listen to our elders, and we often don’t realize what we’re missing until it’s too late. To help families prevent this loss, Canadian writer Victoria Veldhoen has taken a novel approach to capturing elders’ stories. She conducts interviews for her clients.
Victoria was one of my MFA students at Goddard College. Since her business, Questions Unasked, grew out of her thesis project, I was interested to learn more about that progression. So, I asked if I could interview her. Our conversation highlighted both the challenges and the value of making — and following through on — a clear plan to collect family stories.
If you’re struggling to draw the past out of your aging relatives, read on!
Q: Welcome Victoria! Why don’t we start with your personal story. You lost your mother when you were just 20. I remember how hard it was for you to write about that loss in your MFA thesis. How did that struggle lead you to this new venture?
A: Hi Aimee! It’s so interesting to hear you mention how hard it was for me to write about my mom’s death because at this stage in my life, I’ve found that the pain associated with that loss is practically nonexistent. The reason for that has entirely to do with completing my MFA. The process of sifting through my memories to create an entire creative thesis out of her death, while also making it worth reading to people besides only myself was completely transformative.
But while the pain has healed, I’ll still never get answers to all my unasked questions. And as a new mother myself, I constantly have more and more questions about motherhood and raising children that I’ll never be able to ask her.
I have been asking more questions of my dad, and anyone else in my family who is still around. I think anyone who has experienced grief can probably empathize with realizing how precious your relationships and time are with anyone who’s still alive. That said, it’s one thing to know this and completely another thing to actually act on it. In discussions…