By Jack Williams
This is the emotional moment the recipient of a heart donation presented the parents of the donor with a portrait of their son, allowing them to come face-to-face with him once more.
In the tear-jerking footage, Elisabeth Kepley – a former portrait artist and realtor by trade – can be seen removing the cover to allow Bob and Marla Maresca to look into the eyes of their son, Rob, who died in a tragic work accident last year.
The donation was a show of thanks from caring Elisabeth, 58, who, thanks to Rob’s heart, has gone on to live an active life – swimming, running, biking and hiking, and even completing a triathlon.
Elisabeth, from Harrison, New York, said: “It was a gift I was personally able to create and give to them for their gift of life to me.
“I wanted to paint my donor in a way that would reveal the love he had for his family.
“I wanted to make his family smile from Rob’s smiling face.
“Oil paintings can sometimes feel more real than photographs.
“I was very happy that the father instantly reacted, and it was almost like Rob was there.
“His father had a portrait that he could look at and see his son smile back at him.
“I could see that my goal of him feeling his son’s love happened.”
Two years ago, in December 2016, Elisabeth learned that she was experiencing heart failure and was put on the transplant list.
In April of 2017, just days after his 30th birthday, Rob fell backwards off a ladder at work and never woke up.
His family made the decision to donate Rob’s organs to help save others – 15 in total, one of whom was Elisabeth.
The artist and realtor received the transplant at Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, New York, and, having been given a set of paints while she waited for the operation, Elisabeth later came up with the idea of painting a portrait of her donor when she returned to painting.
In order to work on the portrait, Elisabeth first spoke with Bob an Marla, as hearing stories about the person she is set to paint, she said, helps with the creation process.
Rob, too, was an artist, and Elisabeth was gifted his art supplies by his parents.
The presentation was made at the medical center on October 10, 2018.
Elisabeth added: “They are a beautiful family and they made a very loving decision on one of the most difficult days of their lives.
“I am hoping to have a relationship with Rob’s family for a long time.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to know them.
“The message I hope that my story portrays is that organ donation is the most loving thing that a person can do once a person can no longer use their organs.
“The gift of healing begins for the donor’s family when they decide to give the gift of Life to another person.
“The recipient experiences the gift of healing when the organ transplant happens.
“It is a great gift that the donor’s family and the recipients both receive.”