That day that I got a new patient on my roster because one of the other nurses was sick, I never imagined how my life would change. I drove out to the end of Cooper Point and encountered Jess Spielholz, a Hospice patient who was 98. It was love at first sight. We became friends and remained so years after Medicare kicked him off Hospice for not dying in a year.
Jess loved and understood poetry to an extent I had never experienced before. He knew poems by heart – lots of them and loved proclaiming them. He was adamant that I write and write and read and read. He believed that poetry (and all art) came and went into and out of pure energy where his spirit would go after he passed. His voice and stories continue to inspire new work in me although he passed in 2009.
A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be another poet or someone who ‘critiques’ my work. He needs to be someone I see as living in creative process, who does what she does because she loves it Who rejoices in the successes of others because each new insight enriches us all. Who follows a calling.
I have accepted that I am a mentor to others through example and encouragement – using poems and palms and cards and empathy.
When I met Jess, I had been so adsorbed in Hospice and nursing work that I wasn’t writing much poetry. And I missed this practice which had enriched my soul since childhood. Without exactly knowing it, I had been asking the universe for a way back in. And I got the most wonderful answer!
It is important to ask for guides and heroes. And for the courage to inspire others. And equally important, of course, to say thank you.