In thousands of little ways… Art Suke.

Another year gone past, and suddenly the day is upon me. If it weren’t for Karen’s post on Facebook, I would have missed it. And that makes me feel sad and a little guilty. And then I think of how we miss you in thousands of little ways, the daily-ness of missing you, and how that missing is somehow just as heavy as landmark dates like today.

Two years ago we said goodbye. I hope you understand, Art, how we much we still feel the void.

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The Oak Tree, by Claire Evans

The thick strong branches sway in the breeze,

as the roots bathe in the rich earth.

The leaves rustle and some drift to the ground.

Chocolate chipmunks scurrying to gather acorns in the long grass.

The bark rugged and brown. Birds singing on the branches,

as another day goes by.

A year in review

It’s interesting when I reflect on things, how I feel that I stray far from my original intentions, yet in reality, I orbit around a thought or a thread of one, and come back to it time and time again. Such, I think, is the case with ‘Buddy Breathing,’ the blog and the concept.

When I think of what inspired ‘Buddy Breathing,’ it was for a large part, my friend Art Suke. Art is in the DNA of this place, and never far from thought when I hear of others who have battled ALS and lost valiantly, as he did. There was another battle lost last week. Another man cut down in his prime. Another celebration of a life. It still sucks as much now as it did then.

Still, there were specific ideas percolating in my mind last January when I posted my very first inspirations here, and some of them have flitted away into the recesses of my mind, while others are coming front and centre again. I consider how I have cast my nets in many different directions, and how God has brought me many good things.

Art is gone, and he won’t be back this side of heaven. He remains part of us. Like the other day when Bob and I were talking about a certain situation and I remembered Art saying, “Take the high road,” even though he’d never tell anyone he was taking that particular route. He just chose it. Spoke well of people. Thought well of people. Kept his expectations of people within limits. He taught me things. He questioned my thinking. He is still here, impacting, in so many ways.

I’ve been asked to speak at an upcoming Okanagan Express, about how my writing, poetry specifically, aids in the process of healing and wholeness in my life. So, immediately I began reflecting on how I walked through the final year of Art’s illness by doing just that… writing. Many poems were birthed on the way to or from Hospice, and even though writing was part of my life long before the complex experience of losing Art, it blossomed into something bigger, deeper, and more meaningful during the time of his illness and death. Publishing a collection of stories for Art was the seed for the first ‘Buddy Breathing’, another experience in giving and receiving words of hope. Landmarks, such as my poem, ‘Scotch Mints’ being published in UBCO Lake Journal, were because the depth of my journey somehow magnified my words into something more. Something that resonated with others.

And without getting into the details of what I’ll be presenting on March 17th at the Bohemian Bagel, I’ll be trying to summarize all that has happened in my life since I first discovered the power of creative expression. I’ll be trying to put into words the way that God has allowed, blessed, opened up, amplified, unearthed, worked out, this gift of poetry that continues to shape who I am. He continues to heal me and give me hope through this gift. And in thousands of other ways, God continues to give me exactly what I need. Hope for the moment. Hope enough. Breath by breath.

Thinking… (that’s nothing new!)



Post Christmas Random Ramble

I am so thankful for all of you. Those who drop by Buddy Breathing and stay a while, those who offer something in response to my writing, those who are regulars. This place has become a touchstone for me, somewhere to share my ideas and rants, even the messy stuff off the top of my brain that needs to come out! And knowing you are ‘out there’ makes it all the more worthwhile. So, thanks for listening.

I wish each one of you a Merry Christmas, and for the New Year may you continue to find people in your life with whom you can ‘buddy breathe’… share oxygen… fresh air… with one another. Breath deep!

Sol deo gloria,


Things to remember for next year;

1. Absolutely, positively, (if at all possible), join in the experience of a Christmas Eve Service… VOLUNTEER…sing, usher, act, organize… whatever… just get involved! There’s a feeling of ‘bigger’ that accompanies this… not so much about having my house in order, my gifts wrapped, my cookies baked… more about preparing for others to experience the message of Christmas… Emmanuel, God with us! And if you absolutely, positively, can’t help out, then please… attend a Christmas Eve Service somewhere! Stop, consider, breathe, pray, believe in the miracle of Christmas personally.

2. Get up early… the long day was wonderful. Sure Bob and I were a little tired at first, but nothing a coffee or two with a drop of Baileys can’t help. By afternoon we were able to rest, read, relax and listen to the sounds of our kids chilling. Even the dog was happy to nap on the couch beside us. Yes, as my Dad always said, “The morning is the best time of day.” Mind you, I’m talking 7:30 AM, which probably sounds like sleeping in to those of you with teeny tiny excited kids! There are definitely some advantages to having teens!

3. Buy less. Every year it’s the same feeling… I intentionally try to buy less. I think I’ve put a lid on the excess and then I see all the presents under the tree… worse still, all the wrapping around the living room after we have finished opening up the gifts and I feel… a little nauseous. For those who say set a budget… sure, that’s fine if the bottom line is ‘value’ of what has been purchased… but I’m talking pure amount of ‘stuff’ that now needs to be put away and absorbed into our already abundant life. I mean… come on!

4.Write more Christmas cards. I enjoy writing. I love getting mail. Perhaps others feel the same? Sure I hand delivered some cards this year, but next year I’d like to mail them out early in December, perhaps tuck in a photo or two, and bless others with something they can hold in their hands. Of course email is good, and Facebook is a great way to share a greeting… but, still, the handwritten paper in hand kind of greeting is much more personal… don’t you think?

5. NEVER, EVER, EVER, cancel the caroling party again. No matter the number of folk who can’t make it, no matter if no musical accompaniment is available, no matter how easy it is to just say, “Oh well, we’ll try again next year!” DO NOT DO THIS! Even though I delivered a basket of cookies to the seniors in place of our melodious voices, still I missed sharing a meaningful evening with them. I missed our home being full of friends afterward, playing party games, sharing stories and treats, I missed the stress of ‘managing’ the crowd as we walked around the neighbourhood to sing, and I even missed the angst over whether the coffee would be ready in time, or the food enough for everyone. All of it. Mostly I missed the feeling of contentment and pure joy as we gathered to sing carols like ‘Silent Night‘ and ‘Joy to the World‘, our voices softened by the cold night air, snow gently falling as we gathered at someone’s doorway and met the smiles on their welcoming faces.

6. Let the dog chew the wrapping paper. Emmy was so good. Sure she sniffed every package, and she certainly tried to steal various presents right under our noses, but mostly she was really good. Claire wrapped a bone in paper and let her rip it open. I think Emmy enjoyed the paper as much as the bone! Not that she ‘ate’ it, but the sound it made, and the process of tearing it off the bone… I could almost swear she was smiling! We only put her in her kennel for a short time, but that was simply because we should have taken her for a walk earlier… she was a bit stir crazy by mid afternoon… yikes, earlier than 7:30 AM? Which takes me back to item #2!

7. NEVER STOP reminding myself what this season is really all about. Never stop posting reminders on Facebook, or reading the Christmas Story in Luke, or the prophecies of our Saviour in Isaiah. Never stop reflecting on the miracles found in the story, how the angels came to earth as messengers, how the shepherds found everything ‘exactly’ as they had been told, how a virgin conceived and bore a child… the son of God, how God came… in the form of a teeny tiny baby, to earth, and that’s just the beginning of the story! And most of all, how God IS with us… in each experience of who he is, every tiny little way that he shows himself to us, in creation, in music, in people. How God is here, and in the most intimate way possible, desires to be part of each of our lives.

8.Never stop sharing my story. May my life be an open book to who God is, and what he has done and is doing in my life. May I be bold, honest, transparent, reverent. May my life be filled with opportunities for God’s story to shine through me.

9. In the words, and expressed in the life, of my Uncle Dr. David James Cook, who passed away this Spring at the age of 71,


on your family, your friends, your neighbours, those you meet every day…

because you never know. Time passes by so quickly, kids grow up, friends move, parents pass away…

Make the most of EVERY moment.

I miss you Uncle Dave. I miss you Art. I miss you Buddy.


Poetry Friday005… one day early

Photo from

Tomorrow is Good Friday, and my thoughts are toward the Holy significance of that day.  As a result, Poetry Friday is on Thursday this week.

May your experience of Easter include personal reflection on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This poem recalls the recent death of a family friend.

Scotch Mints

On the very next day
I woke to snow falling
a heavy, sloppy mess on the roads and underfoot,
and I was immediately thankful that the bag of mints
is foil lined, waterproof,
pressed down by a covering of wet white.

And I thought (tried not to, but I did)
Of you, tucked in there
and what remains of you tucked in here,
in us.

How I can’t help but look expectantly at each passing red pickup
even though I know, I know.
And how often I (almost) drag myself up there
to stand over earth and voice something you’d want to hear,
Something I forgot to say.

Like long after an elephant dies
Scavengers had their fill, blood ties paid homage
The bones remain, sun whitened, immediate.

Like you, still present in
your house on
your street,
and in echos of
your words,
the lingering smell of your cigar
as you sit in the darkened backyard with Bob
shooting the breeze.

Lesley-Anne Evans, January 2010

A little background.

It’s time that I fill you in on the history of this ‘project’… if you can call it that yet. I’m still considering where this jumble of ideas will land. But, here’s where it started out.

First… the name of this blog.

‘Buddy Breathing’ is not a new name. It’s borrowed from a book I authored/compiled for my dear friend, Art Suke, in fall 2008 during the final months of Art’s battle with ALS. The book containing stories, letters, emails, photographs, and poems was Art’s story, one that was read over and over again to him… he never grew tired of listening. Buddy Breathing was a source of hope and strength and confirmation that he indeed made a difference in all of our lives. I was given the privilege of taking Buddy Breathing from germinating thought to fruition, and then presented with the great honour of reading it to my friend. A powerful experience all around.

Art was my husband’s good buddy, they’d known each other first through business, and a friendship developed around work, play, cars, golf, running, boating, faith, family, until the point that Art became ‘Uncle Art’ to our kids. Art was a scuba diver, and made several diving trips with friends. He loved the anticipation of getting below the surface of the water, and wrote after one trip about the, “real, true, vibrant colours … the beauty is just astonishing… almost unbelievable.”

In 2007 Art was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) which made no sense to any of us.  Art was the picture of health, lived a physically active life, ate well, did everything right, and suddenly he faced a devastating disease with no known cure. We were all in shock. We still are in some ways.

Somewhere along the way after Art became ill, I became utterly convinced that Art had a story to tell… that his life spoke to us and potentially to others. And I began to flesh out the idea, talking to him about it, asking if he’d let me help him write something. At first he was a little bit shy, a little reticent about having any focus on himself. We tried a number of ways to begin the process, and finally he said, ‘You do it, LA’, I trust you.’ So I did.

As the disease took it’s course, and Art did everything in his power to treat it, we watched him deteriorate physically and grow stronger spiritually. Not without tough unanswerable questions, of course, but he was a rock and a testimony to his faith. He focused on us, made time for his friends, family, and took trips both to see old friends and also to experience some things that he had always wanted to but never had. Like Art’s trip to the Grand Canyon with my husband… sleeping outside on the terrace of the Presidential Suite, and waking to sunrise glowing pink on the canyon walls… WOW! And while he went about all this, and living for extended times in San Diego to take Chelation treatments across the border in Tijuana, Mexico, he sent e-mails back home that resonated with strength, hope and a willingness to believe in miracles yet accept what his future might hold… both at the same time. He lived in the tension of those extremes.

And as the process of writing down Art’s story progressed for me and I learned more Art’s scuba experiences, I came across the term Buddy Breathing. It jumped out at me… it was a diving term, but it was more than that. It spoke of relationship and community and what we are each capable of… breathing words and actions and acts of love and life into one another… saving one another. That’s how Art lived… until the day he passed away in May 2009.  Art was about people, community, friendships, and paying attention to others. So, Art’s story now had a name… Buddy Breathing, a book about sharing life.

The buddy breathing technique is illustrated in this video.

Buddy Breathing sits on our side table, and I often pick it up and read parts of it, or look at the pictures. Art is still in the pages. Words and images, wisdom and love. And we miss him. We hate the disease that took him from us. ALS is a disease of the young, the healthy, and as such it is, like any disease, one that we want to beat. Now. Our prayer and hope is that a cure can be found in our lifetime. So, maybe this blog is about that. I’m still not sure.

For today, and until things become more clear for me, I trust that what I write here can make a small impact. I trust that I can shed some light or bring some hope into your life. Maybe making a difference in this world is as simple as speaking words of life to one another? Like Art did.

Thanks for stopping by.