After eighteen days, the baby — who had, with its ear pressed against Brod’s bellybutton, heard everything — was born. In postlabor exhaustion, Brod had finally slept. Only minutes later, or perhaps at the exact moment of the birth — the house was so consumed with new life that no one was aware of new death — Shalom-then-Kolker-now-Safran died, never having seen his third child. Brod later regretted not knowing precisely when her husband passed away. If it had been before the birth of her child, she would have named him Shalom, or Kolker, or Safran. But Jewish custom forbade the naming of a child after a living relative. It was said to be bad luck. So instead she named him Yankel, like her other two children.

She cut around the hole that had separated her from the Kolker for those last months, and put the pine loop on her necklace, next to the abacus bead that Yankel had give her so long ago. This new bead would remind her of the second man she had lost in her eighteen years, and of the hole that she was learning is not the exception in life, but the rule. The hole is no void; the void exists around it.

Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer, p. 139


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