In the eastern european school of superstition, if speaking about death is inviting it, then reading about it is like building your own coffin. No one wants to talk about what is inevitable, especially if it involves nonexistence. I say this because even though I spent years researching and writing about death myself, when the book To Mourn a Child: Jewish Responses to Neonatal and Childhood Death arrived unsolicited, I put it, unread, on my desk stack. The cover has a photo of an empty swing; the book’s title hangs between the chains, suspended like a life freighted with expectation that has suddenly stopped.

The book sat for months on that stack, until I finally turned the spine around to face the wall. I could not bear to look at the title in the morning as I studied or typed. Life is heavy enough....

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