“My father says that children keep growing/Rivers keep flowing too. My father says he doesn’t know why/But somehow or other they do. A hundred million miracles/ A hundred million miracles/ A hundred million miracles/ Are happ’ning ev’ry day.” – From The Flower Drum Song, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
You can relax, now. You are where you are supposed to be. You are here because you want to think about something else besides the news. Perfect.
I’m going to tell you a little story. It’s about a cat and it’s about a miracle. But more than that, it’s about the unassailable evidence that we, and all living things, are loved and cared for – far, far beyond what we think we know.
A day or two after moving into our new house, I thought I saw a mouse. Horrified, I gave Bill, my darling, patient husband, a choice: Crazy wife, Cat. Crazy wife, Cat. Bill, who did not like cats, mulled this over for a full minute, and chose.
The minute Bill and I walked into The Cat House, a home conceived and constructed by my friend, Gail, a noisy, gray and white cat walked up and introduced himself. The Cat House was a refuge for homeless cats, a place where they could live out their natural lives (neutered and inoculated) in peace. Or, better yet, get adopted. It was a one-room structure, lined with donated old sofas and chairs for cat lounging, with openings to a fenced-in yard and bins of dry food for grazing. The best place ever for cats that otherwise would have led hard, lonely lives. Bless you, Gail.
Anyway, from the moment we walked in, the gray and white cat never left our side, yowling at us as we inspected all potential mousers. Lazy loungers appraised us with hauteur, indifference, or ignored us altogether. Except the noisy one at our feet, caterwauling at ten decibels. “Me, me, me!” he was yelling, “Take ME!” It was, truly, a metaphysical experience. With a good reference from Gail, we adopted him.
He was about one-and-a-half years old, and the name on his papers was something like, “Champ.” Bill re-named him immediately: Dorian Gray. And maybe that was the moment he became Bill’s cat. They bird-watched together. They took naps. They watched football together.
Bill tried not to love him, but failed. For nine years, Dorian followed Bill relentlessly, refused to let him read his newspaper, and brought him innumerable dead squirrels. They were inseparable, except when Dorian, a confirmed outdoor cat, went roaming. When Bill got cancer, Dorian began to spend more time indoors. And when, in those final days, Dorian jumped up onto the hospital bed in Bill’s room, his well-meaning sister pulled him off, his claws clinging desperately to the sheet. She didn’t know their love story.
When Bill died, Dorian and I found comfort in each other. He began to sleep in my bed. He brought me squirrels, and when I told him I didn’t want any, he deposited them with my neighbor. A few years later, we moved away from the house in Maryland to resettle in Arizona. Dorian protested loudly from his carrier in the airport, on the plane, and on the two-hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona. By the end of our exhausting trip, I was crying, too. But we made it, and in no time, Dorian adjusted to the new neighborhood. I wanted him to stay indoors (after hearing stories about coyotes!), but Dorian wasn’t having it. He visited the sick, made friends with people walking dogs—and their dogs—and lounged in the sun on top of my car. I’m not going to lie; Dorian was no saint. He got into more than one scrape with the other neighborhood cats, and our vet got used to patching him up. Still, he was the neighborhood favorite. Everybody knew his name.
One day, Dorian stopped eating. On the advice of our vet, I drove him down to Phoenix for a sonogram. It showed large nodules all over his liver. Cancer. Like Bill’s. By this time, he was thirteen years old, and the vet told me the cancer was probably also in his lymph nodes and possibly in his kidneys, and to say goodbye. I cried the whole two-hour drive back to Sedona as Dorian lay in his carrier beside me, quiet and still.
As the days passed, I managed to get him to drink a little chicken broth, but he lost a lot of weight and almost all of his hair. Every day I thought of the words of our hometown vet who promised me that he would come to the house and end Dorian’s pain, if it should come to that. But I never saw signs of pain, and Dorian insisted on making his rounds. Strangers to the neighborhood, seeing him so thin and hairless, threatened to call the Humane Society. I had to explain more than once (even to a policeman) that he was not a stray, just my little buddy who refused to wear a collar and who had cancer. Neighbors with tears in their eyes brought flowers, cards, and organic catnip. He was loved.
Because this is Sedona, and we have such things here, I contacted a woman who communicates with animals. Dorian told her, she said, that “he’s not ready to go yet.” She knew nothing about his cancer. She never even saw him. She told me this over the phone. As I said, this is Sedona. Still, all I could see was my little friend fading away, and with him, a last part of Bill.
One day, a little voice inside me told me to stew some chicken for Dorian in my Instant Pot. That day, he ate a few bites. I was overjoyed, but still braced to lose him.
As the days passed, he ate a little more and a little more, but he was still very weak and almost all of his hair had fallen out. Now, I wonder if losing his hair was the result of some kind of internal chemotherapy. Every night, Dorian would climb onto my bed and lie very still on my lap (something he had never done before). Instinctively, I would put my hands around his back, feel the bony little spine, close my eyes, and quiet my mind. And the tingling in my hands would start. And the heat. Some kind of energy was flowing through my hands (Remember that this is Sedona, after all). I didn’t know what I was doing, but he came, asking for…something, and I did what seemed natural.
It has been almost a year since that sad trip to Phoenix. Dorian is eating heartily. He still looks thin, but that’s because he doesn’t have his big, furry coat. He makes his rounds as usual, and now we go on walks together. He shows me his secret places. He loves it when I’m outside with him. I’ve learned that the time I spend with him, walking leisurely, stopping to sit in the sun, greeting the neighbors and their dogs, listening to the birds, is a great gift. It quiets my soul. His friends are delighted to see him. He rides in the car with me when I go to the Starbucks drive-in, and sleeps in a ball, wedged against me every night. Every once in a while, we do the hands-on thing. His hair has started to grow back. It is new hair, like a baby’s, soft and curly. We have never been back to the vet.
There is none. There is only wonderment at the workings of the Universe, and the holy force of life. So whenever you’re feeling down, dear reader, think about this: A hundred million miracles/A hundred million miracles/A hundred million miracles/are happ’ning ev’ry day.