Photo and Story by Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com
I lost everything.
House, business, car, belongings, every cent. Then I lost my health to a stroke and heart surgery. The Great Recession of 2008 gutted the United States’ economy and Detroit in particular. I owned a successful small business there for 17 years. When the General Motors bankruptcy and the banking collapse hit they devastated businesses in the Detroit area. Nearly every business on the road I was on closed. Mine was one.
After the economic collapse I took a job in Tucson, Arizona. I had nothing when I moved there. I was barely able to arrange to get my two cats from my abandoned house in Dearborn, Michigan to Tucson. Then one of them died.
It was as though the entire world was collapsing. The ominous weight of what felt like an endless succession of gut-wrenching losses weighed on my soul. I was calling on survival instincts I had not used in years. The world was dark, and all that ugly darkness had come home.
Then a co-worker told me about a kitten he rescued near the Air Force base.
The kitten’s eye was hanging out of its head. It was dying in the desert next to the airbase. My friend told me he found it while he was running. I went to the vet where the little cat was being fostered. A veterinary student had practiced surgery while removing the little cat’s infected eye. He hadn’t expected her to live at first.
But she did live.
When I met the little cat she was initially shy. The vet student left the room. It was just me and the little one-eyed kitten. So I started talking to the baby cat. Clearly I had hit some kind of bottom, sitting in a room in a run-down veterinary clinic on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona having a conversation with a one-eyed kitten.
But as I talked the kitten crossed the exam table, climbed into my lap and laid down, looking up at me as if listening intently to my story. I asked the little cat, “So, what’s your story?” She rolled over in my lap, started purring, and went to sleep.
I took her home that day.
MiMi the Cat has been with me every since. She is the kindest, sweetest, most loving little girl I have ever known. Every night, like clockwork, she climbs into bed with me. In the morning she jumps out of bed for breakfast, waiting patiently as second in line behind our other cats for her breakfast. In the evening if I get a chance to sit down, she is in my lap. At night sometimes she puts her paw in my hand when we sleep.
When I brought MiMi home she was fascinated with the sink and with running water. What cat who grew up in the desert wouldn’t be? When I ran water in the sink she would jump up on the counter to see the magical liquid flow, then stick her little head under it.
I shot this photo at my house in Tucson the week MiMi moved in with me. She loved to sit in the sink while the water trickled, and she seemed to enjoy to the water on her fur. It made sense since she had never experienced running water in the desert.
MiMi restored hope and faith in me. She showed that things like running water in the Arizona desert were a miracle, and her story reminds me every day the truly valuable things to be thankful for, and, whether you are dying inside from losing everything or dying in the desert with your eye hanging out of your head, there is always an opportunity for a new beginning.