sharlene bosma

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(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, June 18, 2016)

HAMILTON, CANADA ✦ It was my daughter’s first teenage birthday party and the family van was full of giggling girls.

The verdict on the Tim Bosma trial wasn’t in, not yet, when we pulled into the bowling ally across from Carmen’s banquet hall and I said, “Tim Bosma’s funeral was in that hall. And his wedding too.”

Silence fell. One girl said it was terrible what happened to Tim. Then my barely 13-year-old asked, “Why would they have his wedding and funeral at the same place?”

It was the most suitable, I said, before the girls went into their bowling party and before we later drove home in the opposite direction, but not before something had changed: a moment that came through time.

I had been at that memorial service three years earlier, that gathering of a thousand faces plus the microphones and lights and cameras that brought it to thousands more, that day when Sharlene, the beautiful and broken wife, said what she did.

She stood up and walked to the podium and bravely held it together, and then some, when she talked about the devil, how he, the liar and thief, knocked on her door one day to take her beloved Tim, even as she shared the secret (that’s no secret, really) of the imperfect husband and father.

Tim would leave his socks laying around, she said, and she’d get after him about it, this irritating nuisance. But God, oh God, how she now wished that just once more she could walk into a room to see those socks, how she’d trade the world for this precious reminder of her husband’s presence.

This is not to say that men need now throw their socks everywhere to celebrate their flaws. (My 10-year-old son is getting a head start.)

It is to say that this Father’s Day, like any day, there are imperfect men out there even as there are imperfect days, painful and hellish days even, the sort that words can’t put a finger on, days that, strangely, can mix with the best of times.

This is the paradox of this world, a place of weddings and funerals both, where wine is served in joy and where wine is served in drunken grief, this strange place where beautiful and terrible things live side-by-side, in the same building at times, under the same roof when that’s the only place big enough, really, to pour out what’s so bitter and sweet at once.

What Sharlene Bosma showed during that memorial service was something of this, even as the body of Tim Bosma’s family and closest friends have shown remarkable courage since then, during the long and painful trial that’s marked this community.

They know that this sort of loss will never, can never, leave anyone the same, that it will either destroy you with anger or transform you, somehow, with new priorities and new directions, new things that get knit inside your very innards, like a child in the womb being made and remade in fear and wonder.

My own giggling kids are old enough to see their own father’s imperfections and inconsistencies, even as they’re old enough to think of the devil, that enigma so easily presented as a joke with his horns and pitchfork and ridiculous red tights.

But what if there’s something else, something bigger and darker and more hideous and less human than anyone cares to imagine? Evil, after all, is simply the word live spelled backwards. Evil gets its way when up becomes down, light becomes darkness, truth become lies, and so forth. There’s a great reversal and, it stands to reason, a great reverser.

Choose to think what you will about this, but what nobody can choose is to forget their own painful losses. We each remember.

Sometimes remembering is just realizing that you can lose someone you love deeply, even to the cold pit of the grave, only to find that you still see their face and hear their voice and, sometimes, feel their very presence as you walk into your day.

In this, you’ll always carry something of them with you. In this, on the better days, there might even be healing in the remembering. For you. And for others also.