Often we find that our volunteers have special talents and abilities that they pass along to Hospice Care of the Lowcountry patients and caregivers. One such volunteer is Kathy Tortorella, an accomplished local artist.
She and her husband Bob moved to Hilton Head permanently in 1997, living first in Sea Pines for 20 years before moving to Indigo Run in 2014. Both grew up in the New York area and met at work in the city. Having been married for 50 years, they have lived in both Australia and Argentina (where Bob worked as a systems manager for Exxon), and have three children with four grandchildren.
On retirement, Kathy wanted to get involved with the community as a volunteer. She remembered her father’s condition when he was dying and how wonderful it was for her to be with him and share her love. Her desire to help those experiencing their final days steered Kathy towards HCL. She completed training and was assigned to a patient, saying to herself, “Okay now what? I’m not sure I can really do this.”
Then she got a call from an angel in the form of Annalou Thomas, one of the founders of HCL. When Kathy expressed her apprehension, Annalou replied, “You’ll be fine, but I’ll go with you the first time.” It really helped Kathy to have her support. They remained friends until Annalou’s death.
Kathy’s professional art career started with joining the Art League of Hilton Head when it was a storefront in Sea Pines Center. She then took a class at the Art Academy. Kathy’s first show was in 2003 at the Art League. She put her heart and soul into creating 34 paintings, half of which sold! Currently, Kathy exhibits her work at Maye River Gallery in Bluffton. Besides painting, Kathy also enjoys playing bridge and golf. Kathy has had many enriching experiences with the amazing HCL staff and the beautiful patients going through their last days on their own terms.
Her most memorable experience was with a patient who had no relatives. Vigil volunteers spent time with him just before his passing. The last time she saw him, Kathy found him very close to death and very anxious. Kathy uses her artistic ability to visualize and communicate to others what she sees. She started to talk to the patient calmly, describing a beautiful day on a beach where he was walking. She went on to describe a gentle breeze, a calm sea, and a comfy chair where he could sit and relax. He seemed calmer as she went on talking about how wonderful he felt in the lovely surroundings. Lastly, she had him think about seeing a radiant light and all the loving feelings associated with that light. Kathy told him to go to the light and he calmly passed away.
It was an honor to have been with him when he died and she felt glad that maybe she was able to help him transition in a peaceful way.