“Tak ,Ska’ Du Ha'”(You have my thanks) June 1, 2013 Shariananda
I am watching a lot of Danish television to improve my apprehension of the language. I watch commercials, documentaries, rebroadcast of American programming with Danish subtitles, and miscellaneous movies. Last week, I caught the tail end of an emergency rescue program for the elderly.
It seems an elder woman of about 84 or so had taken a bad spill in her apartment, and had broken her ankle or foot. She was down and could not get up. She was in a great deal of pain. I did not see how she called for help or if someone else had done so, I did see the paramedic team that showed up in heavy rubberized and stripped yellow coats,driving a van that looked more like a delivery truck for a checkerboard company. But the matter was not laughable. It was serious and tender.
There were two attendants. While one, handled getting the woman comfortable, and calm, the other readied her for transport. One of the two was male; the other female. They surveyed her position, and then began to talk to her, naturally in Danish, and I strained to understand even a few of the words, but I did get the gist of what they intended to do, they told her it would be uncomfortable but they would examine her leg and give it a prosthetic support for travel to the hospital. The elder lady was crying and moaning, and this news did not make her feel better. Fact was, she cried out so piteously when they moved the leg and foot in an attempt to place the right foot in a leg-length plastic support cup. But this they did, gently and with as much care as possible. The young woman attendant, perhaps about 25-30 years old, stroked the lady’s hair, and arm, and soothed her. She was not business as usual or hurried. She was attentive and intimate. The other attendant was busy in the background but no less intent on seeing to this elder’s care.
Once, the task of getting her ready for travel and giving her a shot of something for pain or nerves, they were able to lift her onto a gurney and raise it to roll her outside. Just as they put her into the the ambulance, the elder lady whispered in a broken croak, “Tak sku du hey” (The literal translation being, “Thanks you shall have.”) And in what I have come to perceive as an unsettling Danish modesty, because of it’s customary reply, the emergency lady, answered the elder lady’s gratitude with, “Det var sa lidt.” It made me cry. For all of that drama, crying out, and tense handling of an elder, the emergency paramedic, simply said, “It was so little.” Not by a long shot, I say. Not by a long shot.
By contrast, two weeks ago,Vivi and I were travelling to Svanemollen to see a chiropractor. I had a kink in my neck that I occasioned by sleeping crooked. It was bothering me for a time, and I had done release work and Vivi had done massage and Reiki with no complete relief. So, we set out on a easy trip by the S-Tog train from Emdrup for Svanemollen. (Pronounced S’van e mon) As we were walking back, we encountered a woman whose legs were stiff and crossed, like an X. She had two arm crutches to help her walk–if that is what one can call it—for she was making her way only a few inches at a time down the street. She was holding up the traffic in the busy intersection, as she minced along.
We stopped her to see if there was something we could do. At first she said she was hungry and wanted to eat because she hadnot eaten in two days–she said she had a terminal disease, but didnot say what or how she came to be this way. We talked to her, she began to describe the hell she lives in because she is unable to walk, unable to feed herself, shop for and buy groceries, unable even to open the door for welfare workers to come and delivery care, food, cleaning or other services. It was difficult for Viv and me to imagine how she could possible be on the avenue this day in such a wretched condition. That is, how she could she have dressed, come onto the street, and attempt to reach a destination inches at a time. Her ability was so severely restricted that she may as well have been blind-folded,feeling along without being able to see pitfalls.
What impressed me so deeply was how her legs ,long, as she was tallish, were frozen in a hard X and it was so heart-wrenching to see. Dressed in beige slacks, and a short coat to match with a scarf wound around her neck, we stopped her in her tracks offering our help, aid, or intervention with the Denmark state agencies. The more Vivi and I tried to offer suggestions for how she might use us to help, the more excuses and defenses she put up. She refused to give us her name. She would no longer accept our offers for a meal, nor listen to the options we presented. She just kept saying, “Nej,nej” (pronounced in English as “nie”) which is the word “no” in Danish. “”Nothing will help. I can’t. I can’t.” To her nothing would work, nothing could be done. She had already lost public assistance. She was really quiet defeated and in great despair.
We were stultified. It occurred to me that she may be frightened of us both assailing her with our intense concern and questions. So, after offering to pray for her and having her reject that, I stepped back from crowding in on the right with Viv on my left. Once we allowed her space, she started mincing away again. Vivi followed after her trying to get her to take our phone number in order to call us if she changed her mind. That she accepted. As we watched her go on her way, inch by tortuous inch, we both stood crying. We felt terrible. First because she was in such a terrible state; second because we had not been able to think of an immediate way to get her the help she needed. We came home very down about it.
There was no good end to this story. It was just not our red banner day. We did not see a cop or a cab to call nor did we think to do so. We could have sent her home in a “taxa” as they are called here. We could have flagged the “politi” as the police are called, but we were so distressed for her, we just could not think straight. Later, Vivi gave me some money to buy a prayer candle for the sacred prayer bowl at Grundtvig’s kirke (church). I also used my own kroner to buy extra candles while there. I lighted a candle for the X lady and for all who suffer from disabilities. For it seemed that day, all I could see was those who had physical challenges: in wheel chairs, walking with double canes, limping or hunched over in bizarre contortions of the body. These people (mennesker) the state has a program for, and it seems as long as those with physical disabilities can get around and do for themselves, then they are allowed to. I suspect that many feel more self-sufficient, and perhaps, the services are limited by stipulations. The X lady seemed to have run out of support. If I had it to do again, I would call an ambulance to take her to the hospital–that is if she would go. That way she could be reintroduced into the system and get the transportation she really needed by wheel chair. I was not sure what the spiritual message for Vivi and me was.
We may have both have had the experience of the X lady, but perhaps we both were given different messages. For me, you can help only those who are willing to receive it. Free will is an imperative. And prayer may not be the key to every closed door. For Vivi, the message may have been you gave what you could,if you are what she needs, she will call. It will be so. You both were compassionate and willing to serve ,as light workers, that is all God expects of you. Tak ska’ du ha’.