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Welcome Home of Chattanooga executive director Sherry Campbell talks with a resident in care Tuesday at the Germantown Road facility.

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Demystifying death session scheduled in March

Schedule

This will include four short evening sessions and one all-day conference:

“Caring for a Hospice Family”

Sherry Campbell and guest panel

Unitarian Universalist Church

March 10, 5:30-7 p.m.

“Demystifying Death and Dying”

An all-day conference

First Baptist Church

April 21, 8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.

“Death Café”

Taylor Hinton-Ridling and Death Café Chattanooga

Location to be determined

May 12, 5:30-7 p.m.

“Caring for the Caregivers”

Dr. Bob Zylstra, UT School of Medicine

Unitarian Universalist Church

June 9, 5:30-7 p.m.

Please refer to www.welcomehomeofchattanooga.org for more information.

People who are dying want to tell others how much they love them before they die. But the dying person's closest friends and family members might want to avoid serious conversation — or any conversation at all — because they are uncomfortable with death. But former hospice worker Sherry Campbell aims to help people be more accepting of death.

"A lot of times when people are terminally ill, we don't go visit them because we don't know what to say or we don't know what to do," said Campbell, director of Welcome Home, which houses homeless and low-income people who are terminally ill. "So we're trying to help create more opportunities for people to learn about end of life and to talk about it."

For the next four months, Campbell, local doctors and people who have had family members in hospice will discuss death and dying in a series called "Demystifying Death and Dying." She's planning a "Death Cafe," a day-long conference, a panel discussion and evening socials to talk about death.

"This is for the public, to educate the public," Campbell said.

This is the first spring enrichment outreach program hosted by Welcome Home.

The upcoming session, "Caring for a Hospice Family," is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on March 10 at Universalist Unitarian Church.

Conferences will also be conducted at First Baptist Church.

"Sometimes [people] cringe when you say you work for hospice," said Mia Edwards, a hospice home health aid. "They think we're the grim reaper."

But when they experience hospice and the care that workers give, people are more receptive.

Campbell said her enrichment will give people more realistic views of end of life resources like hospice.

Dr. Greg Phelps, medical director of Hospice Chattanooga, started the first conversation, "Living in the Presence of Death," on Friday evening.

Nearly three dozen people came and were so interested that they stayed talking after the discussion ended.

Doctors predicted 56-year-old Laura Arden was so sick that she would die before she left the hospital.

That was some eight months ago, and she's been living at her residence at Welcome Home since then. She said she has to tell those close to her how she feels about them, even if it irritates them.

"I've come to the point to where I've started telling how I feel," said Arden, who has gastroparesis, a rare and incurable stomach disorder. "I might get on your nerves, but I might not see you again and I want you to know that I love you."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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