Turns out it's much easier for me to talk to my toddler about my vagina than about death.
They're both just biology, as far as I'm concerned, but when answering questions about birth, I can point to body parts and pictures and draw on analogies (it's just like the tube slide at the park!) and concrete answers (hopefully the baby won't land in the potty, but someone - the doctor? your papa? will catch him when he comes out). Death? Not so easy.
We've had a few neighborhood pets (a bunny, a cat, a dog) get put down this summer, very old and sick and not unexpected, but well-loved beings who were a regular part of our lives. So the questions still come up: 'Where's ____? Where did she go? Why won't she be back?" Hmm. And we also visited some older relatives who are struggling with their health, which brought up related questions. How to explain without making it too scary? I don't want to compare it to sleep, and I don't want to focus too much on how it will happen to everyone. I'm not going to say things I don't believe - she's chasing rabbits in doggy heaven! - that pretend it's a happy ending. Of course we can't know for sure what happens, and I'll allow that there are more things on heaven and earth, etc. etc., but basically things just stop. What does that mean to an almost-3-year-old?
It even comes up in silly little ways: Harry, the dirty dog, plays dead in the story. He lies there without moving. No, that bee can't sting you - it's dead. That means the body stops working. Why? The blood stops flowing, oxygen doesn't make it to the brain... as the science gets complicated, it starts being ridiculous and unhelpful to try and explain. Hey! Was that a helicopter? Do you want some ice cream? Let's go to the park! Topic successfully evaded once again.
And birth? To quote: "That's just silly!" I can't say I disagree. (okay, okay, also wondrous and amazing, but come on, y'all)