CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A little over a year ago, I wrote about a Texas couple who lost their 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, from injuries received in a skiing accident. When told that Taylor wouldn't survive, the family agreed to donate her organs, believing it was something she would've wanted.
Taylor's heart went to a 39-year-old Arizona mother of two whose heart had been failing for years, and even though recipients of donated organs are usually kept confidential, publicity following Taylor's death enabled both the donor and recipient families to recognize their connection. They decided to meet.
At their meeting, Taylor's mother was able to put her head against the recipient's chest and hear her daughter's heart beating. A part of her daughter was still alive, even if that part was now in someone else.
So much time had passed since I'd written that particular column that I'd completely forgotten about it until I received an email from Kelly Paynter, of South Carolina. She was searching online for information on organ donors when she stumbled across my story.
"It's been almost two years since I lost my mom," Kelly wrote in her email. Her mother, Minnie Paynter, died at age 52 from a pulmonary embolism on March 21, 2011. Many years earlier, mother and daughter had registered together to be organ donors.
"Mom became a donor the day I received my driver's license at age 16. I was standing in line to get my picture made, filling out the general information, and the guy asked if I wanted to donate my organs. I said yes. Mom stopped me. She was against it. I told her I wanted to live longer than my death, and since cryogenics was out of the picture, I said I'd just find me a new body. Mom liked the idea of living on in other people, so she had her license redone that same day to indicate her intent to be an organ donor as well."
Minnie Paynter was one of those admirable single moms. She managed to get off welfare after putting herself through college, while at the same time raising a daughter -- Kelly -- who struggled with asthma and epilepsy.
"Mom was one of nine children," Kelly told me. "She was the daughter of a coal miner. They were very poor. My mother was the only one to graduate college, and she graduated with honors."
Kelly's pride in her mom was clear. As was how badly she missed her.
"I need to find these people who received some part of her," wrote Kelly. "I would like to look into my mom's eyes again. Can you please help me find the people she saved? I cannot tell you how painful it felt when I laid my head one last time on her chest, to not hear her heart beating ..."