September left many in this community in shock with the passing of restaurateur/photographer Robert Ménard, owner of the “La Galette” in Sutton. My husband, Wayne, and I have been personal friends with Robert and his partner, artist Sanders Pinault, for a good 16 years. We have shared countless dinners filled with humor, good food, and thought-provoking conversation. Robert remains in our memories as a bon vivant that exuded joie de vivre and generosity. He will be greatly missed by friends, family, and this community.
The One Last Gift
Something you may or not know is that Robert wanted to be an organ donor. When the time came, the family was asked if everyone was in agreement with his decision as Transplant Quebec’s protocol requires the family agrees in order to proceed. The family agreed. Sanders insists that he was an organ donor because of me, it made me cry for many reasons.
Sanders was very generous in sharing what it was like for the loved one of an organ donor. I had seen something about it in a documentary. But it is very different when it is someone you know and love. It is not so easy for the family, it takes several days of tests to determine if the organs are viable while loved ones visit and wait. Sanders called me from the hospital excited that Robert was able to donate 2 kidneys. Sanders description of how the transplant team at the Sherbrooke hospital went about the procedure was in her words, “beautiful and touching”.
A Special Bond
This December, I celebrate 3 years with the most amazing gift I have ever received, donated from a man I did not know. One of the most surprising of the many positive effects of my transplant has been the ongoing correspondence with my donor’s mother. All our letters go through Transplant Quebec keeping everything anonymous. My donor’s mother first reached out with a letter in French. I prefer to write in English, translate my letter into French then have a good friend proofread the letter. She often suggests a few corrections.
What makes this story very special is that that good friend is Sanders. She has been on this journey with me since my very first letter 3 years ago. Since the beginning she always made it clear that it was an honor for her to do so. She witnessed a lot of different emotions through these letters. Life always seems to be filled with unexplainable unexpected happenings. Sanders says that Robert Ménard was the love of her life and he continues on his journey as a hero.
This holiday season I can’t help but think of how hard it is going to be for those who have lost loved ones. In the spirit of giving and receiving, please take extra care of those around you who have lost someone dear. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season.
Andrea Conway, a grateful transplant-surviving tap dancing clown