A star has gone shooting out of the Pictou atmosphere. Roy Charles MacDonald will now shine for the eternity he never stopped investing in on earth; infinite good cheer and wonder. It seems fitting that Mr. MacDonald said goodbye on New Year’s Day.
Fitting, because his departure underscores the kinds of resolutions his journey on earth inspired; to be kind; to persevere in joy; to give even when it seems impossible.
Roy had an incredible voice. It ricocheted off of the Lismore hills like a rifle shot shattering even the hardest, saddest times. His laugh was a tonic that relieved distress. He lived through disaster with fierce optimism, which he imparted, by word and deed. He knew what it was to suffer and still find hope in all sorts of circumstances.
“He’s misunderstood” a distant relative once confided to me after I happily recounted one of our adventures together out on the Shore Road. Often, his vegetable oil fueled car broke down during one of his missions to stir up joy. But Roy persisted. I watched him knock on many a stranger’s door only to discover new friends.
So it was, as I learned from Roy how to turn trouble into fun, that Roy featured prominently in the stories I wrote about living in Merigomish. It was a privilege to report on the way he was contributing to a greater account with every moment he shared. He ate well. He danced a lot. He listened with every fibre of his being to anyone who needed reassurance. Then he talked and talked and talked, reviving many broken spirits with the adventure he made of his life. Roy often cast himself as a hapless character in that story. In fact he was a savior for many.
Roy never flinched from the hard work of saving souls. “It’s the Maritime way,” he oft repeated. Roy never treated anyone like a stranger. “I take people at face value” he once explained when I worried that his attention to a traveler was imprudent. This fellow had appeared at the Lismore Variety Café one summer on a solo bike ride across Canada. Disheveled and exhausted, the man complained of a really bad toothache. Roy took him home. He let him have a shower, fed him a decent meal and took him to the dentist!
The loss of Roy’s daughter, Karen Lyn and the trials and tribulations that befell friends and neighbors did not deter him either. He ministered compassionately. His neighbor Alan Edwards’ passing in 2013 was one such time; it was Roy who eventually found the poor fellow dead in his home. Roy had never given up on Alan. Roy didn't give up on anyone.
He was a trooper, especially in the company of the rest of his family. Roy’s son Jack, and grandson Adam came out fishing with Roy and a friend of mine one weekend. His brightness stirred up pure delight on that long, hot morning. Only two fish were hooked-by his grandson Adam- but we were all caught up in Roy’s raucous determination to have fun.
When Roy and his gracious wife Jo-ann visited my house it was like hosting royalty. And I dare say we have lost a king in the Lismore Parish. Many Sunday mornings I drew comfort looking up from my place in the pews at St Mary’s church, to see Roy and Jo-ann, above, in the gallery. I remember well their renewed joy at the baptism of their daughter Nancy’s son, Kieran.
It was a quiet, uplifting ceremony filled with the Roy MacDonald brand of delight. I’m consoled by the memories Roy created, if saddened that I cannot fulfill a wish he expressed. He asked me to sing Amazing Grace at his funeral. I never wanted to think of such things but he found a way to help me face reality by encouraging me to praise rather than mourn.
Now, I believe that in extending the kind of faith, hope, and charity that Roy exemplified everyone can develop the fortitude that made him into a star. There are no strangers, there are no “Come-from-aways” in the future Roy kept looking to, the light his life pointed towards.
Thank you Roy for your enduring good cheer. Thank you for your example of perseverance. Thank you for being so bright, so intensely kind, in the darkest of our nights. You illuminated many hearts Roy. Your life a saving Grace.
Magdalena Randal is a Nova Scotia artist and filmmaker currently studying in Paris.