Melanie Cantwell, who now lives and works in Toronto, met her son, Francis Menard, for the first time this past July.
In a last-ditch effort to find his birth parents after searching unsuccessfully for six years, Menard approached The Guardian about doing a story. Within hours of that story going online, Cantwell saw the story and reached out to him.
He was also reunited with his birth father, Alan MacQuarrie, of Crapaud.
“It’s just going to be a beautiful Christmas,’’ Cantwell said. “We’re making our first memory of Christmas together. I think it will be just a lot of talking and hanging out and continuing to get to know each other.’’
Menard attends and plays for the men’s hockey team at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. However, he’ll be spending Christmas at home in Embrun, Ont., with his adopted parents, Paul Menard and Martine Chartrand.
And that’s where Cantwell has gone for the holidays.
“Francis and I try to get together probably every six or seven weeks to make up for all the lost time. I’ve gone to (Halifax) a couple of times and I saw the UPEI-Saint Mary’s game in November.’’
Cantwell and Chartrand have grown close over the past few months since the two families met.
Chartrand said she’s been looking forward to Christmas.
“To tell you the truth, I think it will be one of the best Christmases,’’ Chartrand said. “We are blessed to have Christmas with (Cantwell). It’s very special for her to be with Francis.’’
Chartrand said having her adopted son find his birth parents is one of the happiest moments of her life.
“Many people are still asking me how I feel about it. I would say Melanie is the sister I never had.’’
Francis Menard said he’ll spend Christmas with Cantwell in Ontario before spending some time with his biological father, MacQuarrie, before going back to university.
“Not a chance,’’ Menard said when asked if he ever dreamed Christmas would be like this months ago. “(The Guardian) was my last hope. I didn’t think anything would really come from (the article). You just hope for the best.’’
His birth parents are everything he hoped they would be.
“Melanie is a very special lady and Alan is an awesome guy. The people I come from,’’ he says, pausing to search for the right words, “they’re as special as you’d expect them to be.’’
Cantwell said Chartrand has been helping her catch up on 24 years.
“Martine is constantly texting me photos of Francis when he was a little boy. I missed all that and I can’t get it back (but) we’re moving forward. I’m just looking forward to sitting around the tree and talking about those times (such as) what Francis would do on Christmas morning. I hope we’re going to start a new tradition in some ways.’’
Francis said these last few months he’s been soaking up every second he’s spent with Cantwell and MacQuarrie.
“There is so much more to know and experience. (I have) had minimal days with all of them. They’re great people. You want to be there and be with them and enjoy the company, spend time together and get to know each other better,’’ Menard said.