The widow of slain Ancaster, Ont., man Tim Bosma has become skilled in how to explain death to a toddler.
Sharlene Bosma does it weekly. The 34-year-old mother corrects her two-year-old daughter when the little girl says her father is at work. She avoids soft, inaccurate phrases such as "Daddy is sleeping." That's what the experts say.
Sometimes, her daughter wonders aloud why her friend gets to spend time with her daddy, when the daddy in the Bosma house is gone.
"You have to keep repeating it," said Sharlene in her living room, which is still filled with photos of her wedding. "It's not just once that they ask. It's over and over and over. At 2½, they don't understand. They just know that Daddy's not there."
This is the new reality for Sharlene, whose life changed on May 6 when her husband of three years told her he'd be right back. He was advertising a pickup truck on Kijiji and AutoTrader.ca, and two men arrived for a test drive.
His whereabouts were unknown for eight days, when finally, police found his charred remains at a farm in the Waterloo Region. "It's just a truck," Sharlene had pleaded to the camera during the search for her husband. "A stupid truck. You don't need him, but I do. Our daughter needs her daddy. Please let him come home."
Life is different now. Sharlene has not returned to her administrative job. Media knock on the door of her home on Trinity Road. On Thursday, she made her first appearance in Hamilton court, sitting in the gallery as the two men accused of her husband's murder — Dellen Millard and Mark Smich — made brief appearances. They will appear in court again on Sept. 12.
It's hard for Sharlene to sit in the courtroom. She shakes when asked about seeing Millard in the prisoner's box, and being in his line of vision as he scanned the room.
Focusing attention on 'something good'
"There are some things you can't describe, and that's all I'm willing to say about that," she said. "I don't really want to go back to that moment right now."
Bosma has stepped into the media spotlight this week to launch her new charity, Tim's Tribute, which will help families of homicide victims. Such families have immediate needs, such as the costs of a burial, headstone and even groceries.
There are also trial expenses, such as lost wages, transportation and parking.
"It's a way to make something of it that's good," she said. "That's where I'm going to focus my attention."
People have reached out to Sharlene from far and wide. A large plastic box in her living room contains hundreds of letters, and she's read every one. There's a new pen-and-ink sketch of the couple's wedding photo on her living room wall, and nearby, a painting of Tim with their infant daughter. Both are gifts from strangers who were moved by the story.
'The whole future we had is gone'
Tim was always a planner, Sharlene said. He had big dreams and liked to talk about what would happen years down the road. She would have to remind him of the here and now.
Now, "the whole future that we had is gone," she said. "It's a day at a time. The only plans I really have right now in the future are Tim's Tribute. That's it."
With the new fund, Sharlene said, at least when her daughter searches for her dad online in a few years, it won't all be bad.
"It feels good and it feels right," she said.
"Hopefully one day, when people hear 'Tim Bosma,' it's not just about what happened to him. It's what hopefully becomes a legacy going forward."
Donations to Tim's Tribute can be made directly to Christian Stewardship Services, Suite 214A - 500 Alden Rd., Markham, Ont., L3R 5H5, payable to CSS with the memo notated to "Tim's Tribute."