Seasons in Provence: "Winter" (c) Kristin Espinasse. More info about Provence in Julie Mautner's "The Provence Post": for those who live in, travel to or just love the South of France!
le rein (leuh rehn) noun, masculine
Audio File and Example Vocabulary:
Click to hear my daughter pronounce une greffe du rein (kidney transplant)
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
I have met so many lovely people since moving to a wine farm in the Vaucluse. Some of these travelers have shared their story of our meeting, here, in this journal. Today, we have a very special account that is sure to move you as it has others the world over. I hope you will share your thoughts in the new "Coin Commentaires" and even share this story with another. It could save a life as it has our friend Maureen's. Special thanks to Carelle and Mahmood for permission to use their daughter Nai's photographs in the following story. And thank you, Newforest, for the suggesting "le Coin Commentaires" (a.k.a. "comments box"). What better day than today to share our thoughts in our new "coin".
Like many Americans I became a “Provence-phile” after reading Peter Mayle’s book “A Year in Provence”. Now, twelve years later, my husband Lee and I continue to visit Provence every year. These visits are all about the wonderful people of Provence, their serene life-style and their superb wines.
In October 2008 we found our way from the gîte we were renting to the Rouge Bleu farmhouse, less than five minutes away. We had made new friends in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue who told us that their neighbor, in Houston Texas, imported French Country Wines. They assured us the wines were wonderful and the wine makers, Jean-Marc and Kristin Espinasse, were delightful people. Our friends were correct on both points!
The scene as we approached the farmhouse was truly hectic as the harvest was still in progress. Jean-Marc was providing direction to several of his workers while others were scurrying at a frenetic pace to get the grapes harvested and ready for the “crush”.
Jean-Marc mistook us for part of an English speaking wine tour that was not due for a couple of hours. He explained that Kristin was not available and very politely asked us to return later at the “scheduled” time. Rather than correct his mis-perception and further distract him from the harvest we left.
When we returned, we were lucky to have a few moments alone with Kristin before a group of eight of their friends from Marseilles arrived to taste (and hopefully purchase) his wines. They brought their male golden retriever to get to “better know” Kristin’s female golden retriever, Braise. Pandemonium ensued!!
(Braise, hiding in the lavender and rosemary patch. Sam, in pursuit.)
Braise was NOT ready for such a commitment and resisted all attempts of her would-be suitor. Her retreat took her around the yard, through the house and back again numerous times with Kristin’s children, Max and Jackie, in close pursuit. With each trip around the circuit the barking and yelling became louder!
Unfazed, Jean-Marc continued to expound on the many virtues of his wines. The increasing noise level prompted a response from Jules, Kristin’s mom, who was visiting. From her bedroom window on the second floor, above the courtyard where we were seated, she inquired loudly. “What is going on out there? I am trying to take a nap!”
For Lee and I it was difficult not to break down laughing at this crazy comedy playing out in front of us. It was a truly memorable and insightful introduction into the lives of Kristin and her family. As we prepared to take our newly purchased wine and leave, I told Jean-Marc how much I liked his wine-stained T-shirt. Without hesitation he stripped it off and tossed it to me with a stern warning of “Don’t wash it!” Kristen yelled across the yard, “wash it wash it!” The evening had provided another wonderful Provencal memory to savor and share with our friends.
In the few quiet minutes before the arrival of their friends from Marseilles, we enjoyed talking with Kristin. She asked many questions prompting me to share my “special story” with her.
I lived as a Type-1, insulin dependent diabetic (juvenile diabetes) for 44 years since I was diagnosed at age 11. I suffered many of the complications, feet problems, vision loss, nerve damage, and kidney failure. In 2006, our annual visit to Provence had to be hastily arranged for July. I was going to be added to the kidney transplant list. This meant I could be no more than six hours from my hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. With the prospects of dialysis (or worse) looming and the fear that I may never see my beloved Provence again, it was a bittersweet visit. There are over 100,000 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant in the USA; another is added to the list every 11 minutes; 18 die every day waiting for an organ.
On April 27, 2007, the medical nightmare ended. I received the “Gift of Life,” a kidney AND a pancreas from an organ donor killed in an auto accident. The next day I was insulin free, no longer a diabetic. Although I still must deal with the diabetic complications from years past, I am healthy, happy, and able to visit “our” Provence.
After the transplant surgery I recovered sufficiently to make our September 2007 visit to Provence. This visit was an entirely different and a vastly better vacation!! I was no longer tied to a very tight regime of constantly checking my blood sugar, eating and taking insulin to manage my diabetes. I was “FREE,” no longer diabetic! This was the first year we rented our now-favorite gîte close to Kristin and Jean-Marc.
Some wonderful, loving and caring people make my “special story” possible. It crosses geographic boundaries as well as the perceived boundaries of religion and culture. This demonstrates again that people the world over share the same values.
The first of these wonderful and caring people was Naiyareh Karimimanesh, a beautiful 28 year-old Iranian-American woman, who died in the auto accident. At the age of 16, “Nai” as she liked to be called, had the maturity and compassion to become an organ donor and have it displayed on her driver’s license. This simple act saved my life and the life of another woman that was within hours of death due to kidney and liver failure
Nai was beautiful on the inside as well. She strongly believed that diversity makes us richer and stronger as a society. She had recently passed the bar exam and was working for one of the more prestigious law firms in Atlanta, but her intent was to dedicate herself to defending the rights of women in less developed areas of the world where they suffer from cultural and religious abuse.
With the love and guidance of her parents, Carelle and Mahmood, Nai became an incredible woman. At the time of Nai’s tragic accident they were half a world away in Iran visiting family. For us it is still unbelievable that when confronted with the worst possible news, the loss of their only child, they were able to give permission for Nai’s organs to be donated, saving the lives of two women they had never seen.
In April of 2008, near the first anniversary of my life-saving transplant surgery, we received the first letter from Carelle and Mahmood and responded immediately. I had not written after my surgery because I could not find adequate words to express the dichotomy of my emotions. I was grieving for the parents of this young woman and their unimaginable loss but at the same time happy with my incredible good fortune to have received her organs and a second chance for life.
We began a correspondence via the organization that coordinates organ transplantation in Georgia. The process is slow, designed to shield the identities of both the donor’s family and the recipient until both sides are emotionally ready to meet. From their wonderful letters we knew we were ready to immediately meet Carelle and Mahmood. However it would be just after we returned from Provence in October 2008 that we were provided names and contact information. I could not sleep for days before our first phone call. I still did not have the words to express my emotions. All worries vanished within minutes of first speaking to each other. It was clear that our lives would be forever linked.
In January 2009 they came from California and stayed with us for a couple of weeks. They introduced us to their friends in Atlanta, many of Iranian descent and of the Baha’i faith as well as some of Nai’s friends from law school. These remarkable people are coping with the lost of their only child by focusing on the positives that came from her death. In April, Lee and I flew to California to be with Carelle and Mahmood to mark the second anniversary of my transplant and the loss of Nai. As a tribute to Nai, Mahmood arranged for a three-hour interview on Persian satellite TV to tell “our special story” and to promote organ donation. The program aired in North and South America and via Internet feeds to the whole world.
Days after we returned from our October 2009 visit to Provence, Carelle and Mahmood visited Atlanta again to support my fund raising efforts for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The 2009 Atlanta Walk for a Cure raised over 1.9 million dollars for diabetic research. Maureen’s Dream Team was renamed to Maureen AND Naiyareh’s Dream Team raising almost $10,000.
In Nai’s memory Carelle and Mahmood continue to support charitable efforts around the world to educate and build better lives for women. To learn more about Naiyareh go to her website.)
I am so grateful for the “Gift of Life” that has given me more time with the people I love. I am continuing fund raising for JDRF to help find a cure for juvenile diabetes. (To support this effort visit www.jdrf.org.) Lee and I also are volunteering with Life Link to promote organ denotation. (To become an organ donor visit www.lifelinkfound.org or www.donatelife.org; In the UK visit www.uktransplant.org.uk.)
We are grateful to Kristin for allowing us to share my “special story” with her and her followers on French-Word-A-Day.
Maureen Templeton-Adams & Lee Adams
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouragements here in the comments box. I know that Nai's family and Maureen and Lee, will be delighted to read your notes.
Postnote: Jean-Marc, on hearing Maureen's story, said that is was a shame that French driver's licenses didn't offer the organ donor's info (as the US driver's licenses do. What about other countries?). In France, it is necessary to carry a separate card.
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