Baby Charley napping on her "heated tile" | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley napping on her "heated tile" | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Hello, Dear Readers. Yes, I am still here. I gave myself until the end of January to get through the first part of the grieving process, and here we are at February 2nd. Tim passed on January 5th, and I know the grieving will continue. I know there will be days when life seems overwhelming. But I want to get back into posting on the Gazette, and today is the day I want to start doing that. Maybe not every day, but most days.

And on the days when I can’t piece together a sentence, maybe I’ll just post a photo or something. Thank you to the folks who sent along photos and stories to post – I appreciate the help with fresh content! Look for those in the coming days. And if you’ve got something to send my way, feel free to email me, [email protected].

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Thank You and How I’m Doing

First, thank you for all the support you’ve given me and the kids – emotional, financial, spiritual and everything in between. As always, we so appreciate all of you every single day. This community, near and far, means so much to me.

And second, how am I doing? Well, about like you’d expect for someone who just lost their partner-in-crime after 42 years together. I’m so grateful for those years, and we had a good long run, considering all the health issues Tim’s had over the years. Both being Old Mission natives with a penchant for telling Old Mission stories, we really were meant for each other, and we were meant to start Old Mission Gazette together.

So it’s been hard, but I’m getting through it. During the first few weeks, all I could do was lie on the couch and watch the Hallmark Channel. Those movies are innocent and always have a happy ending. It’s all I can take at the moment. I’m working my way through “The Good Witch” series, and I’m now way too invested in those characters.

Taking over the wood stove task from Tim has also been good for me, because it gives me a purpose and some structure to the day – get up, get the fire going, keep the fire going, bring wood in, clean the stove out a couple times a week… There is so much to say about the wood stove and the fire, so many life lessons to learn from it. I’ll write more about that in the coming weeks.

Instructions on Cars, Guitars and Firewood

On Tim’s last day here on earth in physical form – Jan. 5, 2022 – our son Will and I went into the hospital to be with him (yes, it was one of those early morning phone calls that everyone dreads). While we were there, we also facetimed with our daughter, who had returned to California after being here over the Christmas break. Thankfully, she was able to see Tim a few times at the hospital before she left.

Here’s the sequence of events that led us to the hospital, then to Tim landing back in ICU (after doing so well they were going to send him home), to him passing, to me writing his obituary. It’s both crystal clear and kind of a blur at the same time.

When Will and I got to the hospital, Tim was busy writing down instructions for us – everything from what to do with his sports cars and guitar collection to which type of wood was in which woodpile. And oh yeah, the firewood by the driveway won’t be ready to burn until next year (that’s the Shipman Road wood for anyone over there who waved at Tim as he was cutting). I think I have enough wood here by the house to get us through the winter. Then maybe I’ll organize a work bee this summer to bring the other wood up to the house.

Anyway, when we got to the hospital, I took over the writing part while Tim gave instructions through his oxygen mask and Will translated for me (it was hard to hear Tim through the mask). I was an emotional wreck, so it was a little surreal to be sitting there jotting down notes while those two were discussing where the Austin Healey engine was in the shed. They were very matter-of-fact about what was happening and what information needed to be relayed before Tim was no longer able to relay it.

About That Cat

After we got through that, Tim said, “Anything else you can think of?” Nope, we said. Seems like we covered all the essential stuff. Then he turned to me and said he’d always be with me, but he didn’t want me to be alone. I said, “Well, maybe I’ll get a cat.”

Of course, there’s a backstory here. Growing up on a farm here on the OMP, my family always had a lot of animals around, and so every now and then through the years, I’d talk to Tim about getting a cat or dog. This was always a big debate between us. He never wanted pets because 1) his health was sketchy for the past 20 years, and 2) we were back and forth to U of M Hospital in Ann Arbor dealing with whatever health crisis was happening.

When I said that about the cat, Tim exclaimed, “Over my dead body you’ll get a cat!” Classic Tim – joking even though he was minutes away from death. He’d basically been waiting his whole life to say that. We all laughed, and then he said I should totally get a cat, but make sure that it’s a black cat.

More backstory on this … when Tim and I first got together, we had a black cat named Bill that we rescued from campus when we were going to school at U of M in the 1980s. Bill moved north with us and is actually buried under a tree out back on our property.

So Tim passed that day around 5 p.m. I came home emotionally and physically exhausted, got the fire going, collapsed on the couch and watched some mindless movie on the Hallmark Channel.

The very next morning out of the blue, my friend Maura, who lives out by the lighthouse, texted me and said there’s a black cat that’s been wandering around outside their home. There’s only a handful of houses out there, and she said the cat didn’t belong to any of the neighbors. Did I know of anyone missing a cat? I did not (my mind was already whirring about this black cat business).

They’d been seeing this cat for several nights, and one night, the cat pushed up against their sliding glass door looking for warmth and food, so they brought her inside, cleaned her up and fed her. I texted back to Maura and told her about Tim’s and my conversation the day before. She knew Tim had been sick, but didn’t know he’d passed. She immediately called me and an emotional conversation ensued.

I realized that this cat was probably meant for me, so I drove out there to pick her up. When I went inside and picked up the cat, she just sort of melted into my arms and started purring. But when we went outside, before I could get her into the car, she leapt out of my arms and raced off into the woods. Keep in mind it was 11 degrees that night. Oh no! I thought. The cat that Tim sent me just got away and I’ll never see her again! But Maura was confident she’d be back that night looking for food. Sure enough, the cat returned. I went to retrieve her again and finally brought her home in Maura’s little dog carrier.

When I brought her home that night, she laid in my lap for several hours, purring up a storm. Then she slept on top of me that night – and every night since then. There is no doubt in my mind that Tim coordinated this whole thing. What are the chances that he and I would have that conversation and the very next day, a black cat shows up in my life?

Baby Charley living her best life | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley living her best life | Jane Boursaw Photo

She had her first veterinary appointment on Jan. 18, and she’s in amazingly good health for being out in the wild. I learned that she’s about a year old, and thankfully, doesn’t have feline leukemia, which is often found in strays. In the words of Dr. Mason at Oakwood Veterinary Hospital, “You’ve got yourself a great cat here!” She had her first distemper shot, and I’ll take her back in February for the second distemper shot, a rabies shot, and I’ll also have her spayed at that time. I’m a cat mom!

I’m also very grateful that she didn’t have a microchip – I was holding my breath on that. We officially belong to each other, and she’s been an amazing companion as I’m grieving over the loss of Tim.

When I’ve told this story to a few people, one of the first things they ask is what name did I give her. I thought about several “black cat” names like Luna, Shadow or Smokey, but none of those seemed to fit her. I started calling her Baby, and then my friend Kris suggested something tied to Tim. I settled on “Charley” because Tim’s middle name is Charles. So I call her either “Charley” or “Baby Charley.”

You know, my mom had a cat show up at her house after Dad passed. Mom took her inside and gave her a warm, safe home. Maybe it’s a mystical generational thing.

Anyway, I’m now officially the crazy cat lady who watches Hallmark movies. And I am totally cool with that.

Baby Charley, Jane's new managing editor at Old Mission Gazette | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley, Jane’s new managing editor at Old Mission Gazette | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley checking out this new warming device | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley checking out this new warming device | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley, relaxing after a long day of napping | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley, relaxing after a long day of napping | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley asleep by the fire | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley asleep by the fire | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley ready for her close-up | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley ready for her close-up | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley, the Goofball | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley, the Goofball | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley checking out the sunrise on her first morning home | Jane Boursaw Photo
Baby Charley checking out the sunrise on her first morning home | Jane Boursaw Photo

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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  1. So glad to know you are trudging along, making a new life for yourself. When you get up to 3 cats, we will start worrying about you. Helen

  2. Yes thank you for sharing your journey with us Jane. Although, after reading about your college cat I think you should have named her Billie!

  3. What a wonderful story, Jane! And such a great comfort for you. You and Charley are so lucky to have found each other! Tim is definitely with you.

  4. Welcome back, dear Jane. We missed you. What a wonderful story. Relaxing after a day of napping sounds like the perfect RX for mending your broken heart. It’s stronger now for the scars, and I believe Tim made sure of that. Oxo

  5. The unique and interesting weavings through life sometimes appears like cosmic magic. It matters not if or how we connect the dots in life for comfort. It does not matter if it’s a placebo or happenstance….it’s real. It’s healthy to sew that new quilt of memories throughout life. You deserve it! These complex events that get in the way of our happiness only make us better people. Where there is no simplicity in most of our lives anymore, I hope you work your way back to the peace and confidence you deserve. Through the love of your readers and family, you’ll find the beauty of your life that got you to this very place. Best wishes!

  6. I believe in messages from those that have departed from us. Heaven knows I’ve received so many in the last 36 years from my husband Larry. This is such a wonderful example of them still taking care of us and so well told Jane. Baby charley looks contented to have been rescued from the winter cold as well. Continue to be strong and may happy memories help to heal your loss.

  7. Having lived through a loss like yours I know many things seem so trivial compared to what you experienced and will continue to experience but let me make a recommendation about a lighter moment for you. There is a show with Ricky Gervais called After Life it’s got the hallmark gulp thing
    with Gervais humor and a lot of well- profanity but his love for his wife comes through loud and clear. You might find some relief or not.
    Keep up just the way you are going. Life will be different but as you know you have lots of support.


  8. So good to see you back in print Jane. You’ve been missed. And congratulations on “Baby Charles”, sounds like a fine companion, and a lucky cat at that!

  9. That made me smile Jane. Thank you for sharing. While I had COVID I acquired 2 black cats. Little did I know they were feral. A winter protect. Violet and Fern.

  10. Your cat story brought tears to my eyes. For sure Charley was sent by Tim. And just so you know, most of my pets have been “found” animals and they are the very best.

  11. Hi Jane, my stray cat came to our house three months before I lost my husband and truly believe some greater power delivered her to us. She has been with me now just over eight years and I thank God everyday for having her companionship.

    My sympathy at losing Tim.

  12. Condolences dear Jane. For what it is worth, last Summer we noted a litter of young black cats playing in the area north of Mapleton not far from the fire station. Perhaps Charle is from that litter? Glad that he found you and hope his siblings are so lucky.

  13. What a wonderful story! so sorry for your loss, but you know the old saying…..”When one door closes, another one opens. Cats are the greatest companions! Kim Yanke


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