The loss of a loved one is a trauma that each of us must confront sooner or later. But the death of a child fractures a primal pattern, breaks the ultimate promise that we make to our children: No harm will come to you because we will protect you. Such a death divides and devastates a family, isolates each member in his own particular grief and guilt. An alarming number of families do not survive such a calamity intact.

On page 64 you will find Part I of the story of Alexandra Deford, who did indeed die. It is, however, a celebration of her life and her family, which survived. The story is told by her father, Frank Deford, who is, quite simply, one of the best writers around.

Deford—who lives in Westport, Conn. with his wife, Carol, son Christian, 14, and adopted daughter Scarlet Faith, 3—wrote the book as a tribute to Alex. "I wanted as many people as possible to know her and know how she lived, and know what she meant to those of us who did know her," he says. "I also hope it will attract more attention to cystic fibrosis, so that in her death Alex will help those who are still alive."

Deford has been on the staff of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED since his graduation from Princeton in 1962. "I thought I'd be out of sports in about five years," he says. "I didn't think it would involve me sufficiently. But the sports world pretty much involves us all. I've written about everything you can imagine—death, sex, homosexuality, religion. I don't think there's a human emotion that I haven't written about."

A volunteer for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation since 1972, shortly after Alex's disease was diagnosed, Deford is presently the group's executive vice-president. He can also be seen and heard regularly on the Cable News Network and National Public Radio. "I'm just a commentator," he explains. "It's not The Frank Deford Show."

Having appeared in a commercial for the successful Lite beer campaign—he's one of the Lite All-Stars—Deford named his eighth book, due out around Christmas, Lite Reading. "It's everything you want to know about the Lite beer commercials—and less," he promises.