Sometimes witnessing a tiny gesture or a small action can change our perspective. Our spirits can be lifted by a stranger’s smile. Someone in passing can strike up a friendly conversation with us that brightens our day. Seeing an elderly couple holding hands or hearing a young child’s laughter can warm our hearts. Keeping our eyes open to the simple beauty that surrounds us can enrich our day. There are people we never meet but their stories touch us deeply and have a profound affect on our lives.


Since the passing of Anabel Stenzel on September 22, 2013, I have found myself thinking of her often. Ana had cystic fibrosis and received two double lung transplants. She authored a memoir with her twin sister that inspired a documentary film. Ana passed away from small bowel cancer – a common complication for middle-aged cystic fibrosis patients. Unfortunately, our paths did not cross but I heard of Ana and her twin sister Isabel quite often through their advocacy for organ donation. I encourage you to read the article below and be inspired by these extraordinary twins.

I extend my love and condolences to Isabel and the rest of Ana’s family. It pains me to know of all that Ana endured and for her to pass away at the young age of 41. When receiving a transplant, it comes with a lot of medicine, side effects, possible complications and the risk of not living a long life. I had to step back, change my perspective and remind myself of something important: If it were not for the gift of life, Ana, Isabel, myself and every other transplant recipient would not be given these extra years of living. Regardless of how few or how many they may be, it is a blessing. I am grateful for the extra years Ana was given and the beautiful legacy she has left for all of us to learn from.


In an article published by Transplant Recipients International Organization, it states, “Isabel noted her sister’s favorite quote from Hunter S. Thompson, saying it so accurately describes how she’d lived her life: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow, what a ride’!”

This is exactly how I intend to live my life! I love the thought that the tiny actions we make – like a simple gesture – can brighten someone’s day, and how we live every day of our lives can have a profound effect on people we may never meet. The gift of life has had a prism effect on my positivity and my perspective on each extra day I continue to be given. My kidney transplant has enabled me to see life in a different light. I lead my life full of appreciation and with hopes that I will provide shade to many, long after I am gone…

“One of the noblest things a person can do is to plant a small tree that will someday give shade to people they will never know.”

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?


  1. Yvonne DiCarlo-Clemens

    Your writings are always very moving and inspiring, Valen. Thank you. Hope you are doing well.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Yvonne,
      Thank you very much. That means a lot. I am so happy that you enjoy them. I hope all is well with you. Big hugs!


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