A Beautiful Question To Ask Your Parents While They’re Still Around
Two and a half years ago, my brother-in-law Eli’s dad Jeff passed away. Jeff was a brilliant, kind, funny man.
A year later at Burning Man, Eli had the opportunity to celebrate his father's life by writing a memorial to him at the temple. All the tributes and the temple walls they were written on would later go up in flames. My last memory with Eli that day was sitting with them at the temple as they listened to old voicemails from Jeff that Eli has saved on his phone. We all laughed and cried at the one of him making fun of Eli for running a marathon in the wrong shoes and getting injured.
But the real magic moment for me happened after Eli had left the temple. My wife and I stayed around a bit longer, and when we finally decided to leave, we walked out the front entrance and saw a massive gathering of people to our right—roughly 50 members of the Black Rock Philharmonic assembling for a morning concert! We rushed over just in time to hear their first song and then…
Full body chills.
You see, one of Jeff’s favorite songs was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” And right after honoring him in the temple, the first song they played was that very song.
You’ll always be able to remember your parents through the music that scored their life.
One thing this reminded me of is a beautiful gesture Eli’s brother facilitated a year before Jeff passed away. He sent their dad an email asking him for a list of his favorite songs. Jeff responded with a huge list. Little did they know, this playlist would be become the soundtrack to some of their last days together.
I’ve always been in awe of the experience and connection this simple activity created for their family. If your parents are still around, I would highly encourage you to send a very simple email to your parents with one question:
“Can you send me a list of your all-time favorite songs?”
When they respond, put them on a playlist, and you’ll always be able to remember them through the music that scored their life.
After coming home from Burning Man this year, I sent my mom a one-line email with that question. She replied within 30 minutes, telling me that she was so excited to do it. Her response:
Absolutely I can send you a list. What fun.
1. James Taylor, "Secret of Life"
2. Colin Hay, "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin"
3. Brothers Cazimero, "Home in the Islands"
4. Brother Iz, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
5. Dave Brubeck, "Take Five"
6. Debussy, "Claire d'Lune"
7. Billy Joel, "And So it Goes"
8. Eva Cassidy, "Fields of Gold"
9. Kenny Rankin, "Oh So Peaceful Here"
10. The Beatles, "Blackbird"
11. Diana Krall, "s'Wonderful"
12. Chicago, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is"
13. Celine Dion and Josh Groban, "The Prayer"
14. Kenny Loggins, "Celebrate Me Home"
15. John Legend, "Ordinary People"
16. Cat Stevens, "Morning Has Broken"
17. Christopher Cross, "Sailing"
18. Spinners, "I'll be Around"
19. Commodores, "Sail On"
20. Loggins and Messina, "Danny's Song"
21. Amy Hanaiali'i Glliom, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning"
22. King Harvest, "Dancing in the Moonlight"
23. Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody"
24. Tony Bennett, "If I Ruled the World"
25. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"
26. America, "Ventura Highway"
27. Stevie Wonder, "Overjoyed"
28. KD Lang, "Hallelujah"
29. Lin Manuel Miranda, "This Is My Shot"
30. Green Day, "I Hope You Had the Time of Your Life"
Thanks for asking this Andrew.
This is like going down Memory Row.
Each of these songs has a story to it—a time and place in my life that has personal meaning.
The lyrics express what I think is important—or a time of my life I want to honor and remember—or are in alignment with my values and view of life and how I want to show up.
Or some, like Uptown Funk are just fun and get me up on my feet and moving.
Love you—what's this for?
You never know how much time you have left with your parents. Do this exercise, and you can preserve a part of their spirit that will live on long after they are gone. One email, one sentence.
P.S. My mom definitely forgot to put Enya’s "Sail Away" on her list. That thing was on blast every morning for about four years when I was a kid.
Andrew Horn is a social entrepreneur, writer, and speaker from Brooklyn. He is the founder and CEO of Tribute.co, which The New Yorker calls "Hallmark 2.0," and of WeJunto.com, a not-so-secret club for the exploration of modern masculinity and personal transformation. Horn has also been called a “Dale Carnegie for the Digital Age” by Forbes. He received his bachelor’s in business from Virginia Tech. In addition to building companies, Horn trains mission-driven organizations around the globe on Social Flow, a practical communication framework to feel confident, speak powerfully and inspire others. He regularly speaks at universities and Fortune 500 companies and contributes to HuffPost.