Twinned with the mystery of life's conception, like a dark image seen in a mirror at the end of a long hallway, is the inevitability of life's extinction. A vital essence was present, only a moment ago, and now it is gone. We speak with awe of death—our own, or the death of someone we know—but all too often we give a different spin to that transition when it involves creatures unlike ourselves. I grew up in a small town; many of my relatives lived on farms. As a small boy, I occasionally watched the grownups killing a chicken or two for Sunday dinner. Each person, undertaking that task, had a special ritual for calming and quieting the chicken before the blade came down. Sometimes he made soothing sounds, sometimes she stroked its feathers, sometimes he or she made strange gestures before its eyes, as though lulling it into sleep, or performing magic.