"My mom had passed away on January 29th, and I guess everybody has a different way of dealing with it," said Sanderson.
His way, was by clearing through the massive accumulation of belongings, from family pictures to collectibles to simple nick-knacks that his mother kept over her life.
When he was going through a drawer, he saw something that caught his attention.
"I found four pieces of paper that were very odd. They were almost in blurred blue ink, and they had little girls names on it that I didn't know," said Sanderson.
The papers included the names of the senders, their ages, and a location- Hope Town, Abaco, Bahamas. One side said "If you find this note, write to."
Sanderson placed them on a desk for two weeks, unable to recall where they were from.
He decided to do some research and looked up the names of the people who sent the notes. About 20 minutes later, something clicked.
"It struck me like a bolt of lightning. I remembered back to that day, and I think it was my little brother who looked down and found a bottle with some papers in it," recalled Sanderson.
The senders were all girls, ages seven to 13. Sanderson was able to find five of them listed in a newspaper article and reached out via Facebook. He's since spoken with three of them.
Sanderson said his family used to vacation in the Abaco islands, and remembered the island where they discovered the message in a bottle was deserted. The girls, now women, who sent the messages, still live there.
While the message didn't end up traveling far, one of those women, Sharmon Malone, is happy with how it turned out.
"I think it's great now after all these years finally getting a reply from a message in a bottle," Malone said. "Pretty great how Alan tracked us all down via the internet. Maybe one day Alan can make it back to the Abaco (islands) and we could meet him in person."
Malone said the senders were her sister, three cousins, two friends, and herself.
Sanderson expressed interest in such a trip, noting his family had not gone back since their visit where the messages in a bottle were discovered.
More importantly, it's created a lasting memory between mother and son; Sanderson noted he and his late mother often butted heads, but this is something he can cherish.
"Going through drawers and picking up pictures, that will hurt your heart. So that's what I've been doing... and just trying to find some meaning," said Sanderson, as his voice drifted off.
While Sanderson believed the messages were from 1979-1980, Malone believed they were from 1982, based on the age she listed on her message.