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Connecting Through Poetry

A school assignment Esther Bilsky received at age 13 introduced her to poetry. An English teacher tasked the students with starting a school newspaper, and Esther was asked to write a poem to be printed for the project. It was then she fell in love with poetry and kept writing.

Now, nearly eight decades later, the Cherry Hill resident has written a lifetime of poetry. When Esther, who will be 90 in August, realized her vision was starting to fade, she committed her poetry to memory, and now shares it by reciting it for the Samaritan hospice team who takes care of her. Esther’s Nurse Michael Dougherty, Social Worker Eriko Obo-Daniele and Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA) Sharlene Williams love hearing Esther’s poetry. “It’s incredible how she can remember every poem she’s ever written,” Michael says. “She has an amazing mind.”

Sharlene, Michael and Eriko visit Esther, who is recuperating congestive heart failure, frequently throughout the week. Michael will take Esther’s vitals and coordinate her medications, while Sharlene helps Esther ready her meals, shower, assists with light housekeeping and more.

If you live in South Jersey and have questions about hospice care, please call Samaritan at (800) 229-8183.

“I love them,” Esther says of her hospice care givers, who have become her family. The Samaritan team coordinates their visits and care with Esther’s doctors, ensuring she is never alone for long – an important part of her care, since Esther has lived on her own since the death of her husband Ervin in May 2013. Esther met Ervin through their love of poetry – they were two of the founding members of the Society for Poets of South Jersey in 1980, and were active in the group for many years, writing and sharing poetry together.

Esther says many of her poems were inspired by love of her husband and nature. But, she finds inspiration in many things. She remembers visiting a friend, and “her little 4-year-old granddaughter came running up to me and said, ‘I have a flower for you!’ So when I got home I wrote a poem about it:

I picked a flower for you, said my little friend of 4;
Her love for me I quickly read, she couldn’t please me more.
The flower was a dandelion, to me it was a rose;
Her gift of gold and sunshine I’ll remember as she grows
.”

Poems like this one always make Sharlene smile, she says. Talking with Esther and hearing her poetry makes visits a joy for the Samaritan hospice team as they provide top-notch care and keep Esther comfortable. “I always ask her to recite some of her poems for me when I visit,” Sharlene says. “She’s a very special lady.”

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Written by Esther Bilsky

I sometimes missed the sunshine

And saw only the rain

I sometimes missed the laughter

And felt only the pain

When love was offered to me

I quickly turned it down

Then relented and agreed

I’d acted like a clown

Many people whom I met

Had tendered me a smile

Extended friendship to me

In warm and loving style

Now I know the sun is shining

And the days are crisp and clear

I feel God’s holy presence

And know that He is near

The stars glitter above me

The birds sing in the sky

I am now one with nature

And know the reason why

I can only capture joy

Or even know it’s there

By starting off each morning

With a grateful silent prayer