Dr Judith Guedalia

The Gift Which Was Too Expensive

By Dr. Judith Guedalia and Chaim K.

It has been a month and a half since the last time we met.  Holidays and other constraints have gotten ‘in the way'.  One example is the ‘gift that was too expensive'.  We, outsiders, ‘civilians' in the army of WH or ‘Wanna-Helpers', don't understand the ‘price' of our help. 



What could be a greater compliment to a fledgling writer, than to be offered a reward for his writing?  Chaim K. and I co-wrote a few articles for The Jewish Press.  One of these in particular, "I Understand You...", caught the eye of Zelda Harris the person in charge of the annual Metuna  -the organization for Road Safety- Conference.  The conference was to take place at The Dead Sea Resort.  After reading the article, Chaim K. and I were invited to the conference.  They offered Chaim K. a gift, he could stay overnight at the Hotel to divide up the two and a half hour drive so it would not be too taxing for him.  He was asked to be part of a panel and discuss what he wrote and his experiences over the past five years since he was hit by a car and incurred a SCI - Spinal Cord Injury which left him a quadriplegic on a respirator.

He was thrilled.  This was the first real, in terms of ‘financial', recognition of his writing.  A FREE two-days-and-a-night at a five star hotel!  Wow!  Then reality struck.  He requires two people to move him from his chair to bed, and someone with him 24/7.  His dad was going to come as ‘the second person'; he wanted to give his mother the opportunity of getting a respite and coming too.  But where would the second person/aide sleep.  Even when that problem seemed to be surmountable, the cost of paying the aide for the sixty hour shift became impossible.  And so, the ‘gift' was too expensive, and they didn't go.

We in the army of WH or ‘Wanna-Helpers', don't understand the overwhelming obstacles even ‘gifts' present.  We also don't appreciate the consequent ‘price' paid for the ‘exercise', that of disappointment, frustration, sadness, and more than anything else, dashing the hope of ‘being-almost-normal-just-this-once'.

Not to be ‘dashed', and using the positive letters of feedback the articles Chaim K. and I penned, I wrote a ‘proposal' to The Jewish Press.  It was accepted.  Chaim K.  would be paid for the articles. That payment would be the first time he had a paying ‘job' since that late night, five years ago, when as a 15 year old, he was hit by the car, late one night, on his way home from baking matzot at a factory.

So here we are, ‘talking about life', about six weeks later.  Chaim K. has learned since his injury, not to trust or share his feelings.  It is generally too painful for him, surprisingly not because he doesn't wish, or can't access them, but rather the effect these feelings have on those around him.  He sees their pain, though much of his physical body does not ‘feel' anything, he intensely feels the discomfort, hurt, and agony of those who love him and whom he loves.  So he ‘screens' or as he says: "censors" what he says.  

Weekly, in the ‘safe place' of my office, our ‘conversations' are a challenge to both of us.  To Chaim K. (with whom I read and edit all our ‘combined' writings), the censoring is habitual at this point, and with a glint in his eye he challenges me to read the ‘chapters' between-the-lines, or not even lines, but syllables of his utterances.  Sometimes, he says: "No, Dr. Judi, you didn't get it".   I glow with pride when he sheepishly smiles, and says: "Bull" (here that means "right-on-the-mark" as in Bulls Eye).  After the "Expensive Gift" experience, he barely spoke at all, finally when he did, he told me about a song that was playing in his head.  Robbie Williams, "Angels".  Not knowing it, I went on-line, with him in the room, and ‘looked it up'.  Here is some of it:

So when I'm lying in my bed
Thoughts running through my head
And I feel the love is dead
I'm loving angels instead

I read the lyrics to him, and tried to relate to the message, and reframe it in a way to verbalize that hope and love are to be found in this world, though there is no doubt, that he has gotten a large dose of disappointment and sadness now.  The Metuna organization, recognized that even in his pain and sorrow, he could express feelings to ‘outsiders' that others were not capable of doing.  The fact that they invited him to speak to real people, not angels, meant that they saw in him the ability to contribute his thoughts, the act of offering the ‘gift' proved that.

Then Pessach was around the corner and our six week hiatus of meetings occurred.   I felt that this length of time, reflected his disappointment and the fact that he felt that Therapy looked more and more like a ‘gift' Chaim K. could not afford.  During that time, though, I had worked out the ‘proposal' with The Jewish Press, and reported it by phone to him.   He would have a job which would pay ‘real' money.

At our next meeting he told me about another song "that was in my head", "Feel" also by Robbie Williams, these are some of the lyrics:



I just wanna feel
Real love fill the home that I live in
I got too much love
Running thru my veins
To go to waste

I just wanna feel
Real love and the love ever after
There's a hole in my soul
You can see it in my face
It's a real big place.

I related to the hope of normal relations, his capacity to feel so much more than many people who had neural sensations in their limbs and bodies.  The fact that he is now thinking in terms of here-and-now options, and not talking to ‘Angels' was optimistic and that was an improvement since our last meeting. 

When I read him this article which we wrote, the Censor smiled.


Originally published in the Jewish Press on May 31, 2006.

Tags: Chaim K. | Gifts | Hope | Jewish Press | Metuna