When you walk into the Zimmer Cancer Center at NHRMC, your eyes are immediately drawn to a cheerful painting on the lobby wall. At a glance, you can feel the wind enticing the yellow flowers to dance in the field.
The story of the gorgeous painting started with a yellow glow in the distance as Priscilla and her husband Larry were drove through Mt. Olive on their way to their vacation home in Wrightsville Beach.
“Pull over!” Priscilla said, and Larry had heard that phrase many times before. Since he and Priscilla married in college, Larry has learned that Priscilla can’t let an opportunity to paint a beautiful landscape pass her by.
When they stopped near the beautiful field on the side of the road in Mt. Olive, she got out her supplies and a small canvas and started painting.
When the farmer who owned the field came by to see who was standing on the edge of his field, he was surprised to find Priscilla there capturing the beauty of his little canola field. But he was quick to tell her, “that’s a beautiful painting,” and he brought the Whitlocks a sample of his wares.
When it started to rain, Larry held an umbrella over the painting to keep it dry while Priscilla stood under the open trunk of the car.
Larry is kind and devoted to his wife and her passion for art.
On a typical day for the couple, Larry will drop off Priscilla either by boat or car to paint. She paints in solitude for much of the day, and Larry returns in the afternoon to help her pack up her materials.
Priscilla cannot remember an age when she was not painting, and many of her paintings bring a pop of color, hope, and joy to hospitals.
While she doesn’t want to speculate about what people may think or feel when they see her paintings, Priscilla recalls a time when she was in a waiting room while one of her sons was in surgery.
“While I was waiting, there was a painting there that was painted by a friend of mine,” Priscilla said. “Seeing that painting, it gave me comfort. You’re able to lose yourself for a few minutes. That’s what I hope for other people.”
Priscilla hopes the healing she feels by spending time in nature painting touches those who are viewing them.
“It’s a small thing I can do,” she said. “The people who work here every day do so much more.”
Unless people contact her, Priscilla has no idea how her paintings impact those who view them. She recalled with emotion an email she received from a woman who was waiting for her daughter to come out of surgery.
“I wouldn’t have gotten through this without your painting,” it read.
Priscilla, always humble, had this to say about getting such touching feedback, “The work flows through me. I’m just the vessel.”
Flowers for Zimmer
Priscilla’s husband was born in Wilmington as were all her grandchildren. Many of her family members have received care at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. So Priscilla wanted to give back to the Wilmington community.
A neighbor helped Priscilla get in touch with the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation so she could offer a painting.
“Giving is very important to me,” she said. “I have always been a volunteer in one way or another, and painting is the best way I can volunteer.”
Priscilla visited the Zimmer Cancer Center during construction, touring in a hard hat, to help determine where the best place to hang the painting. Once they found it, she got to work.
She needed to turn the small painting she had created in the canola field into a work that would span 6 feet.
It took years for the entire process to be completed. The canvas had to be custom built, and then Priscilla worked for months painting it.
If you find yourself walking through the entrance of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Zimmer Cancer Center, take a moment to lose yourself in the little yellow canola field.
Imagine the warm breeze dancing through the flowers and remember the moment that beautiful painting was just a soft glow on the horizon.