Connections through storytelling

June 2022 Good News

Leslie Davidson is a 70-year-old retired teacher, mother to two daughters, and grandmother to four. She and her husband, Lincoln, also a schoolteacher, enjoyed life in the small town of Grand Forks, BC while raising their children. Leslie and Lincoln were very civically engaged within their community, volunteering for numerous activities and institutions. As a family, they spent as much time as possible indulging in their love of the great outdoors by skiing, biking, hiking, and camping together.

Leslie and Lincoln's love of nature persisted into their retirement. For several years, they travelled in their Volkswagen Westphalia camper van and enjoyed time outside. However, three years into their retirement, their lives dramatically changed. In 2011, Leslie started noticing some subtle changes while walking, as well as a tremor in her left arm. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD), just months before her husband would learn he was living with a young-onset form of dementia.

In the few years leading to their diagnoses, both Leslie and Lincoln had lost their fathers to Alzheimer's disease. Despite having support from family and friends, Leslie started to feel alone. Much of the literature she found around Parkinson's assumed one had a partner who was a caregiver — while Leslie was quickly becoming a caregiver herself. "It was very hard to know what was best for him and best for me," she says.

As a result of their health challenges, Leslie and Lincoln moved to Revelstoke to be closer to their family. She looked after Lincoln for three years before moving him to a care facility — "by far, the saddest, most guilt-ridden decision of my life," Leslie says. When he passed away in 2017, she was shocked by the intensity of her grief. No longer a caregiver, Leslie sought to find purpose in a world made smaller by his death and her PD.

Writing had always been a part of Leslie's life, even in the years when all she wrote were report cards and Christmas letters. "I forget I have Parkinson's when I am writing…unless I am writing about Parkinson's," she says. "Even then, I am distanced from my experience of the disease. I think I write toward the person I want to be." She started writing stories about herself and Lincoln, guided by memories and old emails to family and friends, in an attempt to make sense of their challenges together. As she documented their lives, she was able to sit back and bear calm witness to their struggles and triumphs, and to hear the laughter that lives on the other side of tears.

People would suggest she compile the stories into a book, but Leslie struggled to answer the questions, "How? When? Why?" When Lincoln passed away, the answers came into focus. "Because you need to find a way through this sorrow. Because maybe one other person will read the book and feel less alone. Because he deserves an honouring. Because why not?" "I have made enough connections, simply because I wrote down a piece of my life and shared it, to believe that telling each other our stories is a powerful way into understanding and being understood," Leslie says. "When I write, I am always reminded of the good things in my life, my adored family, friends, and community, and the beauty of the natural world."

Her new book, Dancing in Small Places: One Couple's Journey with Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia, comes out this fall. To learn more about Leslie, please visit her website at