I was thinking yesterday about how some people have loads of friends that they know and correspond with but only through the internet - message boards, gaming, a specific sport or hobby - creating a friendship where most often alias' are their only means of addressing one another and private details other than location simply aren't offered up.
I was thinking of my step brother who passed a week and a half ago. I had a hunch that he most likely had these friends and thought to myself, they may never know what happened to him.
So I googled my step brother yesterday yet again and found that there was a posting on Wizards.com announcing his death. It turns out they did only know him by his alias and it also turns out my step brother owed two people some Star Wars mini figures from a trading arena. One of the guys, frustrated that his figures never arrived and annoyed my step brother never responded to his many e-mails, attempted to track him down. He found his Myspace page and while reading through the comments, soon realized that my step brother either passed away or moved. He then found the obituary and started a thread asking everyone to bow their heads for their fallen brother and to not expect any trades from him.
A two page thread soon followed where everyone posted very kind words of loss and speculation and asked how the original poster learned of this information which is when he replied with the details above. The majority seemed to assume (based on the obituary stating he had passed away in a hospital and the family request donations be made to a rehabilitation clinic) that my step brother died of cancer. they offered condolences to his wife and children not even knowing he was not married. They all agreed 34 was too young to die.
So I registered and sent a message of thanks to the original poster confirming that yes, my step brother died very unexpectedly and thanked him for alerting his friends on the message board. I offered no details since it's clear my step brother didn't speak of himself to these people. I also thanked everyone for understanding about the missing trades - a poster had said that his minis no longer seem that important.
Also in the thread, people tried to rally everyone to make a donation. Some did. The acknowledgments of donations were sent to my step brother's mom. I told my step dad and he seemed grateful and admitted he was curious who sent donations from Missouri and Wisconsin.
I guess even though we have "friends" we never meet, that doesn't mean they won't wonder where we've gone when we stop sending invites to play games or stop trading toys. You don't have to meet someone to know how cool they are and know that they will be missed.