Hospice of Chattanooga will hold a candlelight memorial service and balloon release to remember babies whose lives ended too soon. The memorial service will take place at St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church in Chattanooga on Oct. 15, the National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss.
“Hospice of Chattanooga is the only hospice provider in the region with a perinatal team,” explained Brenda Touchstone, a pediatric and perinatal hospice nurse with Hospice of Chattanooga. “Our perinatal program was created specifically for mothers who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death.”
Hamilton County has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the state of Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Ninety-seven out of every 1,000 babies born in Hamilton County die within their first year of life. A spokesperson for the Hamilton County Health Department was quoted earlier this month as saying Hamilton County’s infant mortality rate is “worse than many Third World countries.”
Touchstone hopes the Oct. 15 memorial service will increase awareness of the resources Hospice of Chattanooga can offer mothers with terminal pregnancies, as well as those who are planning a funeral just days or weeks after giving birth. Hospice of Chattanooga’s perinatal program was established in April 2004. It is offered to any family in the community, regardless of their ability to pay for this unique type of care. Each year, Hospice of Chattanooga’s perinatal team guides almost 100 families through the painful process of losing a baby.
“The loss of a baby is so different than an adult’s death,” said Touchstone. “No family should have to experience that loss alone. We want to be there to love that family and support them through an unimaginably difficult time.”
Families are encouraged to bring pictures and other mementos that belonged to their baby to the Oct. 15 memorial service. Memory tables will be set up inside St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church. The program begins at 6:45 p.m. to allow for a prompt 7 p.m. lighting of the candles. The lighting of the candles is done at 7 p.m. in every time zone on Oct. 15, creating a wave of light remembering our babies. The service will conclude outside the church with a balloon release.
Hospice of Chattanooga was founded in 1981. It is the largest not-for-profit hospice in this region, serving more than 600 patients each day. Each year, Hospice of Chattanooga provides more than half a million dollars in unfunded care to families in both Tennessee and North Georgia. For more information about Hospice of Chattanooga, visit www.hospiceofchattanooga.org.