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‘Empathy, tears and laughter’ – Family shine a grateful light on Clan’s care ahead of Light The North auction

Left to right: Harry Junior, Jackie, Megan, Harry Mackenzie.

Harry Mackenzie – who first used Clan’s services when his wife Jackie was diagnosed with cancer and was chosen to launch the Light The North project with his family back in 2019 – has praised the charity’s empathy and care.

Grateful for Clan’s continuous support since 2015, the family filmed two videos – which will be shown at the Light The North auction on Monday November 1 – to tell their story, show others receiving cancer diagnoses they’re not alone and there’s support available.

Jackie first went to the cancer charity after she received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2015. After leaving Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with her husband Harry, the couple didn’t know where to turn so they headed down the road to Clan.

Over the next years, Harry, Jackie and their children Megan and Harry Junior, regularly accessed the children and family services at Clan, which aim to help children and young people come to terms with a cancer diagnosis in the family.

In the first video, Jackie talks about her story and how Clan made her and her husband and children feel less alone despite later being diagnosed with a terminal illness. You can watch the video below.

‘Surreal’ to finally see Light The North sculptures

In early 2020 – just as the UK went into lockdown – Jackie’s illness got worse. In the 12 weeks she was in hospice her children were only able to see her three times due to the coronavirus restrictions in place.

Harry said: “Jackie was at a time in her life when she needed to be surrounded by people and that was the thing that sat with me for quite a bit during Covid… I understood why and the reasons behind it (the restrictions) but for someone who was at a hospice at the end of their life and not having that (support) – husband, kids, mother, sister – was hard.”

Jackie passed away in July 2020 before the Light The North trail began. Harry said that finally seeing all the lighthouse sculptures – a model of which his family revealed at the Clan ball in 2019 – was “surreal”.

He said: “It was amazing and kind of surreal. You’re seeing all the lighthouses and then you’re realising that the launch was two years ago. It was about taking a step back and realising that we were part of it. It was emotional and it was an honour.”

Jackie Mackenzie’s will to live and constant positivity were admirable.

Looking forward to the auction and working with Clan

Despite it being a very emotional time for the Mackenzie family when Jackie passed away, they all decided to film a follow-up video for Clan.

Harry said: “When we looked at doing the second video, I was a bit more apprehensive to how Megan and Harry would feel about revisiting the discussion about it but they said ‘right, we need to do this’.

“They were positive about it and wanted to… not so much finish our story because it doesn’t stop. Jackie died in summer 2020 but we still have an affiliation with Clan and we still want to have that.

“There’s empathy, tears and laughter. You don’t lose touch with people who helped you as much as they’ve helped us.

“We are very grateful, honoured, humble – there’s not just one word that describes it.

“What Clan can give a family like ours is immeasurable.”

You can watch the second part of the Mackenzie family’s story below.

Harry also wanted to praise Clan and their young ambassadors’ group of which his son – who was only 11 when his mum was diagnosed – was part.

Harry said: “He met a lot of the other kids who were involved. We went in on a Tuesday night and there was pizza and kids were just doing their thing. It never took you to a place of thinking that it was a group of kids affected by cancer. The atmosphere was vibrant and they were just kids.

“You have this preconception that it’s going to be doom and gloom, but it’s relaxed and open. It’s not what people think.

“Seeing the kids getting on with life…it shows you their resilience. When you see that even as an adult you realise this is the way to be.

“The ambassadors definitely gave Harry more confidence. I don’t even necessarily think they were talking about cancer much, but there was kind of like a silent acceptance that they all knew why they were there but also didn’t want to just sit there and only talk about cancer.”

The Mackenzie family helped to launch Light The North.

Jackie’s resilience and positivity

When asked to share his favourite memory of his wife Jackie, Harry said it would have to be her resilience and positivity.

“It’s her will to keep living and to stay positive,” said Harry.

“You can never fully comprehend what someone’s going through at that time – that illness, chemo, radiotherapy, operations – even knowing for about 12 months that her life expectancy wasn’t great but still being able to push Megan through to uni, push Harry through to school and keep telling me to get the washing done…

“She was just an amazing woman who had the will to keep living through the worst time of her life. That will always be something that will sit with me.”

More on Light The North Farewell Weekend and auction

Light The North Farewell Weekend – where locals and potential bidders can see all sculptures that will be auctioned on Monday – currently takes place at Gordon Barracks on Ellon Road in Bridge of Don and will be there till Sunday October 31.

Once the event has concluded, the legacy of the Light The North lighthouse trail will continue when all 50 large lighthouse sculptures and 8 small lighthouses take centre stage in the grand auction at Inverurie’s Thainstone Exchange which will be both an in-person and online event on November 1. This is where the Mackenzie story will be shared too.

Click here for more information on the Farewell Weekend and the auction.