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 →by