‘If You See a Fox, and I’ve Died, It Will Be Me’

A block from my house at the edge of Washington, there is a winding park with a road running through it. One Sunday recently, walking my regular loop along the trail, I heard leaves rustling on the wooded hill above me. I often see deer here; this time it was a bright young fox.

She paused. We stood there for a moment, she and I, aware. I wanted desperately for her to come closer, to stay in her orbit a moment longer. I lingered long after she left.

Sometime in my daughter Orli’s last months of life she told me, lightly, “If you see a fox, and I’ve died, it will be me.” I had never seen a fox in my neighborhood before. Over the last several months, I have seen maybe a half dozen, here and elsewhere. Each time I try to quell my desire to shout out, to ask the animal to stay, to call it by her name. It feels crazy, it feels sane.

I had never believed in signs; now I notice when an interview runs exactly 1 hour and 13 minutes, or when the hour is exactly 1:13. Orli was born on Jan. 13. It means nothing, it means something. A double rainbow stretched over a farm in Maine represents more than beauty.

March 17 will be one year since Orli died in our house, in her room, in my arms; March 20 a year since her burial. (In a quirk of this year’s Jewish calendar, the date of her yahrzeit, or memorial date, is some weeks further on.)

A year is a strange and terrible marker of time, simultaneously endless and instant. A year of loss is a new form of permanence: This is the life we lead. It will not change. A year furthers us on the long march toward our altered future. In the life of a child, a year is transformative. Her peers have molted in the year from 14 to 15. They no longer attend the same school; they have begun new sports, met new friends, moved forward, moved on.

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