My long-time friend Charles died on Monday 1st February 2016 - and how did I know this? Because he told me!
When Charles found out last June that he was suffering from cancer he arranged with his daughter that as soon as he died a final message would be sent out to his various on-line friends scattered around the world. In practice Charles had so many different hobbies that he had to create four different messages and four different mailing lists that reflected the different aspects of his busy life!
I first came across Charles through our shared interest in amateur astronomy. He and I were part of a small group who used to exchange news and views a couple of times a month. But as the years went by our numbers gradually reduced. Hannah died, far too young, and we were down to four and then in 2013 two other members gave up practical astronomy as advancing years and retreating finances took their toll. Eventually Charles, my friend and sounding board in the USA, also decided to retire from the wonderful world of science to take up golf and fossil hunting and after a long and amusing "do you remember when" email he and I went our separate ways.
And now he is gone. None of my close family knew Charles, except perhaps as a name I mentioned occasionally, so there is nobody to share my loss. I suspect that many of us have E-pals or Internet Friends and sometimes, if you are anything like me, one of them will suddenly vanish from your in box and you will be left wondering what happened to them. I think the idea of a posthumous email is both considerate and quite poignant and it certainly something that members of this group might want to consider creating.