Ten years ago I received a lifesaving kidney transplant from Madeleine. The gift of these ten healthy years meant I could travel, take photographs and share my writing with you. Without Madeleine and her generosity there would be no olafphotoblog.
During these years, I have spent a lot of time thinking why this woman found so much courage to save one man’s life. Where did her strength come from? What triggered this decision? Why was I so fortunate?
Kasia and I always knew we wanted to meet Madeleine’s family to get to know her history and visit her place of birth. This year, we did just that.
Please make sure you read the first part of this series here.
Madeleine took me to her classroom, now a museum. She sat down in her chair and put her hands on the desk. I just had to take this image. People’s hands tell so much.
We visited a few more rooms, each one revealing more stories about the town of St. Pierre Jolys and its people.
A rosary caught my attention. Who did it belong to? Was it prayed on?
Then I ventured into one of the rooms and found dusty old Brownie camera, sitting on a top shelf.
For some strange reason, I started to ponder about my road to seeing.
The last ten years have been especially rewarding, as this gift of life allowed me to take a new path. Seeing has become my way of communication in this world. I found that doubt, struggle and vulnerability pave the way to creativity and self-discovery. How telling! Who knew that the old Kodak Brownie on a dusty shelf could spark such musing?!
In fact, I have to give credit to Madeleine who has been pushing me toward the world of seeing. Both Kasia and Madeleine have been my motivators and judges.
Once we left the museum, we decided to visit the grave of Madeleine’s grandfather. It is one of a few places where the ashes of Madeleine’s father, Rene Mulaire, were scattered.
Cecile and Madeleine walked in silence.
We all could feel the presence of Madeleine’s grandfather and father. What incredible men! Who knew that their grand/daughter would be standing here with a stranger whose life she had saved.
The same day, Madeleine’s family organized a lovely dinner for Kasia and me. We could both feel the warmth and genuine kindness all around us.
The following day we started our drive home. Over the course of the long drive we thought about Madeleine and her family. The beauty of the Glacier National Park provided a great visual background for our contemplation.
I realized once again that without Madeleine I wouldn’t be here to feel, connect and see. Strangely enough, the dramatic visuals only underlined this belief. I took out my camera and started seeing. It was my thank you and it always will be.
If you have enjoyed this personal series, I have a favour to ask of you. There are thousands of people waiting for an organ transplant in North America. In the meantime, most people die each year taking their organs with them.
Could you please find a few minutes today to make the decision? Consider becoming an organ donor after your death. Please let others know your decision and register at BC’s Organ Donor Registry https://register.transplant.bc.ca. In the United States http://www.organdonor.gov.
You can find similar programs in your country.
Think about it. You can save as many as eight lives just by signing on. No effort is required. And if you’re lucky you can help your new friend take photos after your death (:
Still not convinced? Then watch this.
All images taken with the Fujifilm X100S, Fujifilm X-Pro2, the XF 35mm F1.4, XF 14mm F2.8, XF 50-140mm F2.8.
2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.