THROUGH A SISTER’S EYES
Andy MacNeil –
A treasure is defined as something rare and precious and that is exactly how Margie MacIntosh thinks of her brother Andy MacNeil. Margie was the first born in a close-knit family. She was soon joined by brothers Dave, Andy, and Phil. Even with a spread of five years between them Margie remembers as a child valuing Andy’s friendship and admiring his quiet, gentle nature and strong commitment to those he cared about. She felt early on that he was both a creative force and the “heart” of the family.
Andy knew that his gift was music. Margie recalls that he started playing the piano but when he got his hands on a guitar it was as if he “disappeared into his ‘room’ and came out able to play”. Music was in his make up and it mapped out his life’s path. As he developed his musical skills “young” Andy was impacted by popular musicians of the time- Elvis, Johnny Cash, Marc Boland (T. Rex) among many other reflective artists. Years later he developed an admiration and respect for the talents of artists such as Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Chris Isaak, Prince and the funkadelic talents of Sly Stone. Margie prides herself in introducing Andy to the music of Tom Petty’s debut album, a gift he reciprocated by taking her to a Tom Petty concert in Halifax years later.
At the age of nine Andy created comic book called “Andy the Guitar Seller”. Over his life Andy accumulated a huge collection of guitars, some of which he designed. As he approached his 60th birthday Andy took a giant step toward becoming the character he had illustrated at age nine by being accepted to the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in Arizona which is world renown in teaching the construction, design and repair of guitars. Sadly, this part of Andy’s journey was cut short by cancer.
Andy was always available to help friends and family. Margie recalls that his devotion to family was clearly illustrated when she became a single mom to two young boys and Andy stepped in to provide his strong and faithful support as a friend and uncle. It is of little wonder then that friends and family were committed to supporting Andy through his final journey. The daily care provided to Andy as his health deteriorated eventually became more than family members could provide and the suggestion was made that he and his loved ones might benefit from the care that could be provided at Valley Hospice. By the end of the conversation with his healthcare coordinator Andy and his family felt that Valley Hospice was the best next step.
Margie notes that “the comfort, warmth and compassion of the entire staff at Valley Hospice assured us (and Andy) that he was in caring, capable hands.” “As we supported Andy to walk away from his home and his dreams, I knew the hospice was the only other place I’d want him to be.”
Margie’s family appreciated that they could come and go as they wished, and someone could always spend the night in Andy’s room, so he was never alone. Margie commented that Andy’s courageous heart was evident even in his last days. He had “accepted his fate” but he was clearly concerned about the impact that this was having on those who loved him. Margie shared that Andy’s first words to his family after his diagnosis were about “how sad he was to be leaving us all behind in this troubled world”.
Many friends dropped by to visit Andy, some of them local and some from further away. One dear friend flew in from England. Each had the opportunity to spend quality time with Andy without having to worry about his care needs. The hospice staff were all so professional and accommodating considering that they had to work within COVID protocols that impacted the number of visitors and the frequency of visits. It was clear that they believed that at this point “everyone and every visit mattered”.
As the end drew close Margie spent the night in Andy’s room and she was there for him when he took his last breath. Margie had been told “by a very fine lady at Valley Hospice” that the residents of the hospice arrive through the front door and leave by the front door. This comment was clearly illustrated when Andy’s family and friends joined the “honour guard” of hospice staff as Andy’s body was wheeled out the front door of the hospice to the waiting White’s limousine. “If you believe in Heaven”, Margie mused, “this is Heaven’s waiting room.”
As the limo pulled away people noted that a single crow swooped back and forth over it escorting Andy to his ‘room at the top’. Anyone who knew Andy was not surprised as he had a well-known interest in and respect for crows. In the end they also appeared to have respect for him.
On the head stone of this treasured brother and uncle the family chose to include two crows and a nod to Tom Petty lyrics “A Room at the Top” ….”As the Crow Flies”
treasure is defined as something rare and precious and that is exactly how Margie MacIntosh thinks of her brother Andy MacNeil. Margie was the first born in a close-knit family. She was soon joined by brothers Dave, Andy, and Phil. Even with a spread of five years between them Margie remembers as a child valuing Andy’s friendship and admiring his quiet, gentle nature and strong commitment to those he cared about. She felt early on that he was both a creative force and the “heart” of the family.