I'm curious to know what peoples' experiences have been because a friend of mine who was in a couple of weekly campaigns with me passed away the day after our session a week ago.
First, let me offer my condolences on the loss of your friend.
I've never had a regular in a group pass away, but I knew a local lady who was involved in the local gaming scene pass away. She was active in Living Rokugan, and I think some of the events that the Roleplayers Guild of Kansas City put on. So I would game with her off and on.
I once invited her to my house to game with me and a friend. We were playing 3rd edition together. I remember how she was being a bit of a rules lawyer that night. Not in a bad way. She was trying to be helpful. But some of what she was saying was turning into a lot of math and I was getting frustrated at that.
I didn't continue the game, and when I saw her next at GenCon, I didn't go out of my way to say hello. It was a short time later that she was in a fatal car accident.
I am still ashamed to this day that my last thoughts of her were of me complaining about rules lawyering and avoiding her. In retrospect, it was all silly.
So no, I didn't know her well. But, I wish I had taken more time to get to know her better. Maybe we would have had many more adventures together.
So far, it's been a little strange to continue campaigning with his PC's. Different people have run his characters. We tend to go back and forth between gaming and discussing the loss of our friend.
I would also like to recommend that you bring the story of your friend's player characters to a close, preferably in a way to honor them and the memory of your friend.
It will be up to you and your friends on whether you feel okay continuing on without your friend. Try to get everyone's opinion on that. If it feels weird, you might consider trying a different setting or game. Or you may just take a break for a while.
I'm sure, though, that your friend wouldn't want you guys to give up gaming. If your group is okay continuing on, that's great.
Godspeed, and the best of luck to you and your friends.