An added aggravation about the death of friends, family, especially parents, is that they don’t have an answer service, and seem permanently unable to come to the phone.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Hidden at home ... The very room where the secret of my maternal grandfather remains. As if adding to the mystery, a policewomen approached as I took the shot and told me to 'Move on'.
You can talk to the clouds as much as you like, or over a grave, or whisper to a portrait, but it seems pretty unlikely those who have left life will hear a word of it and nor get back to you.

Perhaps even worse is that when people go, they usually take with them their true feelings, and histories, mysteries, and advice.

Unanswerable questions

After the initial pain of the loss of an important person in your life come the unanswerable questions, insights into their history and how that history intertwined with your own life.

I feel this particularly with departed family.

They die and then you remember all the things you meant to say, and should have said, and very much the questions they could have answered.

I have enough unasked questions about our family to fill a book. For instance, why in my toddler years did my maternal grandfather live the life of a hermit in a bedroom adjoining the living room of the family home? I saw him fleetingly once.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Dark secrets ... Catching up on family history thanks to an ancient newspaper report.
He must have been a bright fellow. He died as a headmaster or principal. His wife, my grandmother, also a school principal would talk to me for hours, yet, never once about the man lying behind a closed door a few feet from us.

I’m looking at a newspaper clipping of their marriage, on the Isle of Wight at the end of December in 1902.

Sea in the blood

And I learn something that her singlehanded circumnavigator grandson – your narrator – hadn't heard a word about before: Her grandfather was a ships’ captain, and so was an uncle.

How good it would be to learn about those two gentlemen. Did the sea in my blood come from them?

The answer is just as likely to come from this account – this blog, I’m prompted – as from me asking the surf at a beach, or a magpie settling in for the night in a tree in the garden, or addressing tonight’s new moon.

I would have been tempted to lament that it’s likely to be always like that in a family. Secrets and unspoken history remain just that ... and in the grave.

However, maybe, perhaps, my frustrations may be spared families in our modern world. I’ve just learned that there’s a free service available online – and it really is free – where we can record messages for the future.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Captain puts in an appearance ... Captain Derham appears in a Google search list. Is this the ancient fellow whose blood might have reached my veins?
You just go to Record Me Now dot org and download a program that lets us record messages for those left behind when we, er, zoom off to heaven, or perhaps one of the two other likely destinations.

It seems to offer the chance to record messages as a video show or simply as a voice recording.

What must be extra helpful is that the dedicated people behind the project led by its founder, Gaby Eirew, described as a specialist in preventing and reducing trauma, is that plenty of advice is offered about who to record for and what to say.

How wonderful had this been available for my grandparents, for instance, back in what’s referred to as the Acoustic Era (1877 to 1925), which might have been on a disc, a record. Probably a gadget to hear their words could have been found on eBay.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

Record me now website
Wikipedia: A history of sound recording

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