Archive for Religion – Page 2

Cultural Clashes & Conversations

A Hmong shaman rattles ceremonial bells to help an unborn baby’s spirit.

A Hmong shaman rattles ceremonial bells to help an unborn baby’s spirit.

My patient, a forty-something Hmong woman, didn’t speak English.

While working for another hospice in the late 1990s, I was assigned to be her chaplain. I knew, before first meeting the family, I’d need to communicate with her through one of her teenaged daughters. I also knew, because one of the nurses told me, that she and her husband were animists. Animism, according to “The Split Horn,” a PBS film about Hmongs in America, is:

. . . the belief in the spirit world and in the interconnectedness of all living things. At the center of Hmong culture is the Txiv Neeb, the shaman (literally, “father/master of spirits”). According to Hmong cosmology, the human body is the host for a number of souls. The isolation and separation of one or more of these souls from the body can cause disease, depression and death.

A wife and mother, cancer was killing my patient. Just a few weeks before, she’d seemed “fine.” Read More →

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Answering . . . That Question

If given the choice of participating in only one of those two rituals for the remainder of my career, I’d choose funerals. But . . . why?

If given the choice of participating in only one of those two rituals for the remainder of my career, I’d choose funerals. But . . . why?

“What do you say when people ask how you can work in hospice?”

Near the end of a long Friday, and at the end of a tough week, a colleague posed that question.

That question. That question.

I won’t share the details of our conversation because—like everything in hospice—confidentiality is a priority. But I will tell you my co-worker had several demanding visits in a row with patients. Everyone with a job they enjoy has days like my colleague. But in hospice, the patients and clients you meet—the scared or angry person, the silent or talkative person, the openly sharing or mask-the-feelings person—are all dying. They will not get “better.” Their loved one, whether an infant or an octogenarian, won’t get better. And so you wonder if you truly helped them. You wonder if someone else might’ve said the “right” or “better” words. You refuse to use clichés or platitudes to bring comfort in a time of overwhelming crisis, but then it’s as if you have nothing to say. You walk into homes where a family’s world is falling apart and, before knocking on their door, you contemplate (for a selfish, exhausted moment) scurrying back to your car. Read More →

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The Morning of Many Baptists

peaceThe hospice chaplain explained that one of his new patients, “Has a Baptist background, but he doesn’t go to church.”

Later, about another patient who’d recently entered hospice care, the same chaplain said, “She was a Baptist, but hasn’t been to church since she was a knee-high to a grasshopper.” He paused. “Her words, not mine.” The chaplain chuckled.

And then, still later, about another of his assigned patients: “He was raised Baptist, but hasn’t been involved anywhere after his children grew up and moved away.”

On that particular morning, at our team meeting, it seemed all of that particular chaplain’s new patients were raised in, had been affiliated with, or once deeply involved in some church in one of the many Baptist denominations. Read More →

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