Ghosts of People Past

I’m sure it’s happened to you.

You’re browsing one of your usual social media sites, such as Facebook or Linked In, and the site helpfully suggests names of people whom it figures you might know and may want to add to your circle of friends.

You glance at the list, and a name or picture , or both, jump up at you and startle you: the image of a person whom you knew, and possible cared about, who is definitely dead. Deceased. Passed on. Expired and gone to meet his or her maker. This is no joke, so I’ll cut short the Dead Parrot reference; you get the idea.

Recently, two persons whose online profile keeps popping up this way are a beloved cousin who died in November 2013, and a hated surgeon [name withheld] who irresponsibly caused me much pain and grief before dying on the operating table. I shudder to even mention them in the same breath.

Obviously, I can’t expect any social media site or app to know that a certain person is no longer among the living. For all they know, the person has simply taken a break from Facebook and the like — if they know that much. As for the goner’s family, I suspect that, initially at least, they have far more pressing matters on their mind than notifying the website/company that their dearest has departed for good and the account should be deleted.

But here’s the question: Say you — no no, god forbid, not you personally; some other, generic “you” — email a notification of the death, and a request to delete his/her account. How is the company to know that it’s not a hoax? Are you supposed to attach a scanned death certificate? Are there any rules or guidelines? If you know of any, do tell.

When my mother, Clara Caren Rimon, was alive, I’d opened a Gmail account for her, so that she could correspond with her family abroad — something she did consistently at least from the time she left the States (1946), if not years earlier, when she left home to go to hachshara (training farm for pioneers). When she died, in 2009, that Gmail account was the last thing on my mind. Eventually, I thought I’d better check the Inbox to see if any mail had arrived for her, and then delete the account. However, by then I’d forgotten both the user name and password for the account…

So I googled “how to find someone’s gmail address”, and though most of the suggestions weren’t relevant, the simplest and most obvious one did the trick. So now I just have to reconstruct the password. Wish me luck.

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