A Pair of Shoes

Noah and I were filled with excitement and our hearts were overflowing with joy that we could barely sit still. It was November 3, 2013. We were sitting side-by-side in the front row of the greenhouse at Historic Shady Lane in York, Pennsylvania. It was a splendid autumn afternoon. The colors of the leaves were vibrant yellow and orange. We found ourselves taking many deep breaths to soak in the crisp smell of the fall air. We were minutes away to witnessing my brother-in-law, Kermit Keefer, and my best friend, Trinity Walker, marry each other.

Greenhouse decorations

As my eyes scanned around the greenhouse, I felt like I was on the set of a movie, for several reasons. One of which was being the ambiance and the dynamo cast of fabulous attendees. The greenhouse was mystical, magical and romantic. One would describe it as a whimsical woodland and an enchanted forest. Delicate flowers and ferns hung from the ceiling. Gold-plated deer antlers wrapped around the chandeliers and white feathers dipped in gold glitter hung above us and added to the enchanting spirit.

I drifted off into my own thoughts for a minute. I reflected on how all of this came to be. How Trinity, my best friend, and Kermit, my husband’s brother, were getting married. How my kidney donor was a guest at their wedding. How amazing life is. I thought back to eighth grade when I was sitting in the lobby of West York Area Middle School. I was wearing a pair of blue, green and white sneakers. They happened to be guy shoes. I was sitting next to Emily Kerrison on that fateful day. Emily and I looked at each other, looked down and noticed that we were wearing the same sneakers. We laughed, as we both knew they were not girl shoes. From that day on, we were friends.

Years later, it was Emily Kerrison’s mom, Sally Robertson who donated her kidney to me. Emily Kerrison is now Emily Cover, because she married my brother Brandon. I met Trinity through my kidney donor, Sally, because Trinity used to date Sally’s brother. Trinity photographed the book launch release party of my biography, “My Favorite American” by Dennis McCloskey in 2008. Trinity and I have been friends ever since. Last year, Noah’s brother Kermit bought an RV and wanted to go on a cross-country adventure from PA to CA and back. The only thing he was missing was a co-pilot. Kermit and Trinity both live in PA and Trinity wanted to come visit me in CA. Trinity and Kermit had never met, but I thought it would be a great idea for her to hitch a ride with Kermit. Well she did just that and the two of them fell in love during their cross-country adventure. Kermit not only got a co-pilot for his trip, but a co-pilot for life. I don’t believe in coincidence. This chain of events happened for a reason. I sat there thinking that the common denominator to a couple of marriages, happiness for many, and my life being saved was a pair of guy shoes that brought Emily and I together.

Kermit & TrinityTrinity & Valen

I smiled and reached for Noah’s hand. I looked around and felt happy as I saw Noah’s family, Trinity’s family and my dear parents all in the same room. I glanced to my right and made eye contact with my precious kidney donor, Sally. She gave me an endearing smile and put her hand over her heart. Sally’s body language and aura brought instant tears to my eyes. At that very moment I felt an invisible but strong warm embrace around me letting me know that everything is going to be ok and that everything happens for a reason. The captivating music of the ceremony began. I turned around in my seat in anxious anticipation for Kermit and Trinity to start their lives together as husband and wife and knowing that this is just the beginning. Our intertwined lives and magical story is not finished, but rather yet to unfold.

Sally & Valen

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” -Steve Jobs

Do you have a story to share that exemplifies that eventually all of the dots will connect?


  1. Stefan Low

    Thank you for your words. They are finding a place to resonate somewhere inside me. I am in the process of lining up a transplant, though not yet in dialysis, thankfully. But I confess I am considering not going through with it. I am 46, I’ve had a pretty good run I tell myself, and on a certain level it seems so selfish for me to consume so much in medical care, expense, others’ time and efforts, and ultimately another person’s kidney. But I think perhaps you have pinpointed my true reservation, particularly highlighted by the Steve Jobs quote, which is lack of trust. I just don’t trust that the outcome will be worth it. I don’t trust that I will feel good at all taking all the necessary medications, enduring the inevitable side effects and living within the necessary restrictions that a transplant will impose upon me. I just don’t trust that it will work out well, or ultimately even be worth it. I don’t trust simple quantity of life, I value quality, and I guess I don’t trust that I will have that post-transplant. I don’t know what else to say; your writings are inspiring, and I will try to let them work in me to make a difference. But I simply can’t be sure. I don’t do the “faith” thing, religion is anathema to how my mind works, so that avenue of trust is not one I can take. But I will keep reading what you have to say, and hoping I can find trust in the process somewhere. So thank you, keep doing what you do. -SL

    • Valen Keefer

      Dear Stefan,
      I have read your comment several times and instantly stopped what I was doing to respond immediately. I am touched on many levels by this. If my words can resonate enough to encourage you to trust and go through with receiving a transplant, then that sure does give purpose to all that I have been through. My mission and my passion is to show others how one can live a fulfilling live post transplant and with an incurable disease like PKD. Receiving a kidney transplant was the best thing that happened to me. It restored my health and is why I am alive today. I have had many surgeries, and it was the easiest surgery that I have had. Taking the medicine just becomes a part of your daily routine and I do not look at it as a burden, because it sure is better than dialysis. The best years of my life have been the past 11 years. I received my transplant at 19 years old on August 13, 2002. It breaks my heart to hear your reservation in receiving a second chance at life. Please know that you are deserving of it and that you are strong enough to endure the transplant, survive and thrive from it. I know it is hard to understand in life why things happen to us and if things will get better. I try my best to maintain a positive outlook and adjust with the new normals in life. Every day is a treasure. We have the power to make the most of this life we have been given. If you have the opportunity to live longer by way of receiving a kidney transplant, please embrace that. Not everyone is afforded that opportunity, that miracle, that gift of life. I take the best care of myself and do everything in my power to make the most of the day I am in and to see the next day. We can worry ourselves to no end about what is going to happen in our future, but it is really out of our control. We can only control our actions and thoughts today. The rest will unfold as it is meant to be. It somehow all works out, but we must trust that. I hope with all of my heart that you will gain trust and that you will one day be proud to say you are a kidney transplant recipient.


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