When virtual friends die.
I could write a lengthy blog post about my reaction when I read this post by a blogger who is grieving the loss of a member of her online community, but I don't think I need to, because I suspect all of you will have exactly the same reactions and feelings I did upon reading it.
The saddest part of the story is what this fine man kept private about his circumstances; and the wrenching sadness of friends who would have and could have done so, so much more to ensure his comfort - if only they had known.
Many years ago, I joined a snail-mail pen pal service. I replied to an ad that amused me a great deal. I remember it today:
"Eccentric old bat/
keeps three mice in her flat/
addicted to laughter/
is anything dafter?"
She was a funny and astute woman in her 70s living in New York City in a tiny apartment (and she did indeed indulge three wild mice who lived therein, which probably wasn't a good idea), and we exchanged letters for quite a while. Then I didn't hear from her for a long time. Then, one day, I got a letter in the mail from New York in a strange handwriting.
It was from her son. He had found my letters to her, he said, and he thought I would want to know that she had passed away. He thought our letter exchange must have given her a lot of pleasure and he hoped that it had me, too.
It was such a kind thing for him to do, in the middle of his grief, to write to her pen pals, insignificant strangers to him, and let us know.
The strange, random, nebulous trails we forge on the internet - behind passwords - mean that people won't be able to do that for us anymore. Discoveries of our very real friends' deaths will be accidental, as this one was. If they are discovered at all.