Call to Adventure

Maggie, Daniel, Nantan

Margaret Ann MacNeill (nee Deranger) 1974 – October 23, 2021


Acording to her natal chart, she continue to help others, going where angels fear to tread, listening, and providing advice.

I wrote this piece shortly after her passing. As a blogger writing about a loved one who has recently passed is for me difficult but necessary. It helps me process and keep them alive.  Yesterday, August 6th, my family Celebrated her life. I write thoughtfully, and respectfully.  I don’t put it off too long because in our Denesuline culture, we believe that the dearly departed travel to visit the people they loved over three days, after their body is separated from their soul, their spirit embarks on an adventure to visit.  I feel her close as I write this, like she is guiding my heart and my hand. I hope what I write will come across and people will feel her close to them as they read this too. I made sure in honour and respect her and to call her by the name by which she wanted to be known, as Maggie. Most of us family in Canada knew her as Margaret Ann. I totally get it, because when I moved away from home, I also chose to be called by my second name, Angelina.  She was quick to accept that.

Maggie was a free spirit and answered a call to adventure early in her life. Fear of the unknown never did discourage her.  Over 20 years ago with her young son Christopher, she accepted the call to adventure to move to a new country, and a whole new career overnight.  Well, it would seem to those of us left behind that it was spontaneous but I’m certain she thought carefully about her decision to move, considered the consequences, and decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, into the unknown, on the other side of the world.

She never let what others thought of her hold her back. I loved that about her. She was spirited, in other words determined I loved that about her too.  She was athletic and loved sports. In high school she joined the rowing club.

When she left Canada for Australia, she joined the South Australian police force in Murray Bridge. I remember her telling me it was physically grueling, and about an incident when a male police officer broke her nose during a training exercise. She believed that he did it on purpose. But that didn’t stop her.  She kept going and graduated from the Academy. 

She had determination and when she wanted to do something she got it done. She didn’t do anything in half measures. Maggie loved completely. I loved her sense of humour and could listen to her laughter for hours. She had a soft spot for animals, often taking in dogs.  When for a time, she worked as a by-law officer, I remember her sending me pictures of snakes and other animals that I was petrified to receive. She would just laugh and say: “Nah they won’t hurt ya.”

She graced our life in Fort McMurray, Alberta in the summer of 1974, then a small northern oil company town.  As a young child she was feisty. She was very close to her cousins, and particularly my daughter, growing up together. Their relationship was like siblings. They fought, and then they made up.

Regularly, they even dressed up in similar outfits, like twins.   Because I lived with her parents, after I moved away, they spent many holidays together when I went home. They continued to be in close communication right up until Maggie’s passing this weekend.

The small town of Fort McMurray could not contain her for too long. She was meant to share her brightness in the world with others. She made fast friends wherever she went, a beam of light in darkness. She led the way for others. By her gregarious nature we were never left questioning her true loving intention for us.  She loved deeply and completely, and we all felt it deeply.

She was kind, thoughtful and compassionate.  Our schedules meant that we often talked early in the morning, in my time.  In one of our early morning calls she asked me if I read a book she was reading.  She knew I was a meditator and followed Buddhism. I said, absolutely, I have it right here on my shelf.  She couldn’t believe we both had the same book.  And we shared a laugh together. I think it made us feel closer to be holding the same book title.

Her young life had to end so tragically and abruptly. It is a challenge to grasp, why a beautiful soul would be taken from us.   I thought we would have so many more conversations, and laughter. We all do because we avoid the elephant in the room and seldom talk about death.  When Maggie and I ended our calls, she always said she loved me, and I would tell her I loved her more. 

What gives me solace in this tragedy is knowing she lived life on her own terms to the end, and she embraced her adventures fully with enthusiasm. The last time I saw her in person was in Melbourne in 2008 when we went to the movie Australia shortly after it was released. She invited me to this movie even though she had already by that time had seen it three times, but she wanted to experience it with me.  After the movie when we talked on the phone, she would say “I sing you to me. Which meant come visit me, from the movie.

I am very sad; at the same time, I have a desire to give meaning to her death.  It’s difficult when someone passes and there is regret, things unsaid. Her death is a poignant reminder to all of us of the fragility of life and how suddenly it can end. There is no guarantee that we will have an opportunity to fix relationships that have gone off course.  Since her passing I have had a couple of conversations with people and have implored them to repair their relationships with people still walking this journey with us.  I hope my words aren’t falling on deaf ears.

Maggie, you made the world brighter for everyone who knew you I promise to be available to your sons to help guide them when they ask and if they need someone to be a compassionate listener, I will be there for them. I am so proud to be your aunt, you have made me proud by your accomplishments, your integrity, and your authenticity. Until we meet again forever in my heart.

Norma Jean & Maggie
Maggie and her mom, my sister Mary
Maggie and her sister Tracy

One response to “Call to Adventure”

  1. Carole bruyere Avatar
    Carole bruyere

    That was beautiful. It was what maggie was and she is still in our hearts today. Miss you sweet maggie.


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