Sometimes, all it takes is a few words. Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave us five of them, and with that gift she brought a sense of order to the chaotic jumble of powerful emotions evoked by the realization that death is inescapably approaching.

Though feisty and outspoken in person, Dr. Kübler-Ross wrote with a voice that was both soothing and gently authoritative. Few books have had as profound an effect on public dialogue as did her 1969 blockbuster, On Death and Dying, written at a time when the topic was rarely discussed in public and studiously avoided at...

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