Anna was dying. A group sat with her as her breathing changed, all of us surprised when she opened her eyes. “It’s so beautiful. The colors. Can you hear them? Can you hear the flowers?” She was in awe. So were we.

Awe, connection and community carry us as we put one foot in front of the other to create, build and maintain community end-of-life homes across the country.
We invite you to come experience all three at the 2019 Omega Home Network National Conference. Our theme: Can You Hear the Flowers? Planting the Seeds of Awareness.
Please join us at the Marriott Rivercenter in San Antonio, June 24-26, as we plant the seeds of our shared stories and reconnect with one another – and ourselves – to celebrate our sacred work and discover new ways to tell our stories in our communities and beyond.


Omega Home Network Members: $200 per person; $225 after June 2
Executive Directors Boot Camp, Associate and Home Members: $25

Non-Members: $250 per person; $275 after June 2

Frank Ostaseski Keynote Presentation Only: $45 individual ticket 
Tuesday, June 25, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Please plan to arrive by 9:15 a.m. A ticket is included in the overall conference price.


Marriott Rivercenter
101 Bowie St
San Antonio, TX 78205
Discounted Room Rate: $149 per night, evenings of June 21-28

View Agenda→          Register Now→

Start the conference off with the Executive Directors Boot Camp, a multi-session program, open to Associate and Home Members. Operational Leaders will receive intensive training in the model and an opportunity to gain experienced-based knowledge, ask thought-provoking questions, and grow in their leadership role aiding the long-term sustainability of their home. Attendees will have full access to expert speakers for questions and counseling.



Martha Jo Atkins, PhD LPC-S, is a death educator, professional counselor, and researcher. Founder of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas in 1997 and a TEDx speaker on deathbed phenomenon, Martha Jo is happiest at the bedside talking with Guests and families. Martha Jo is the executive director of ABODE in San Antonio and the Omega Home Network Board Vice President. 

Kelley Scott, BSN, RN-BC, CHPN, has been caring for dying people throughout the 32 years of her nursing career. Kelley is the executive director of Clarehouse, the first of its kind in Oklahoma. She founded this project and has overseen all aspects of its startup and development. Nationally, Kelley provides consulting and mentoring to aspiring social model hospices and serves as the President of the Board of Directors of the Omega Home Network. he maintains specialty certification in the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, serving on the Executive Board of the Northeast Oklahoma Chapter of HPNA. Kelley is a frequent speaker in end-of-life care and education, as well as nonprofit startup and development. 

Nancy Light, BSN, RN, MPS, is the executive director of Francis House in Syracuse, N.Y. Previously, she held the director of operations and resident care coordinator positions with Francis House. She has worked in various medical settings in positions from staff nurse to vice president for Patient Services, giving her a multitude of experience. Nancy is the Omega Home Network Board Secretary/Treasurer.

Sister Kathleen Osbelt, OSF, is a Franciscan Sister of the Neumann Communities and the founder of Francis House. During her 40 plus years of ministry, she has been a teacher, hospital chaplain, director of mission effectiveness for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, and manager of a major building project for the Sisters of St. Francis. She is currently the director of Mission Outreach of Francis House, educating the local community on issues related to grief, death and dying; mentoring groups who are working to establish a home; and hosting retreats for those who work with end-of-life issues. Sister Kathleen is an Omega Home Network Board Director.


Frank Ostaseski - The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living
Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight. She helps us to discover what matters most. And the good news is we don’t have to wait until the end of our lives to realize the wisdom that death has to offer. Clinicians and caregivers can harness the awareness of death, stepping beyond roles and duties to appreciate the fact that we are alive, to encourage self-exploration, to clarify our values, to find meaning and to generate positive action. In this keynote talk, Frank will offer mindful and compassionate approaches that address the practical, emotional, psychological and universal needs inherent in the time of dying. Frank Ostaseski is an internationally respected Buddhist teacher, visionary co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project and founder of the Metta Institute He has lectured at Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, Wisdom.2.0, and he teaches at major spiritual centers around the globe. In 2018, Frank received the prestigious Humanities Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. His groundbreaking work has been featured on the Bill Moyers PBS series “On Our Own Terms,” highlighted on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and honored by H.H. the Dalai Lama. He is the author of “The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully.”

Michele Woodward - Storytelling for Marketing and Fundraising
Imagine the millions of humans who, throughout time, have gathered around campfires to share stories. Stories that enlighten, stories that motivate, stories that inspire. Do you know how to tell the story of the work you do in this way? Executive Coach and Writer Michele Woodward will show us how to craft compelling messages to bring awareness and support to our organizations' missions. We’ll learn the keys to effective storytelling, and then we'll have an opportunity to hone our skills in small group workshops. A Master Certified Coach, former Reagan White House official and corporate executive, Michele works primarily with senior leaders who want to be more effective in their work, grow their strategic vision and expand their leadership skills.

Rockey Robbins, PhD - Creating a Relational Home for a Six-Year-Old Choctaw Cancer Patient
University of Oklahoma Educational Psychology Professor Dr. Rockey Robbins will share the transformations he experienced while treating a young Choctaw boy who was in the process of dying from cancer – and the transformations that the boy experienced, as well. He’ll share his insights in a developmental context of growth from Becoming to Being, Realistic to Imaginative, and from Death to Love. Rockey’s presentation draws from traditional Choctaw rituals and ideas as they relate to death and dying – and he’ll also relate the experience to his development as a therapist. Rockey has been a professor in the Professional Counseling Program at the University of Oklahoma for 17 years, teaching courses in multi-cultural counseling, personality assessment, and behavior disorders. His 50-plus journal articles and chapters relate to Native Americans and psychology. Rockey was the first recipient of a citation from the Oklahoma Psychologist’s Association for Social Justice Work.


Leigh Ann Preston & Tracie Shelton Harvey - Storytelling Workshops
Following Michele Woodward's Storytelling for Marketing and Fundraising, Leigh Ann and Tracie will facilitate smaller groups as we put our key learnings into practice. Leigh Anne recently served as president of the Raymond B. Preston Family Foundation in Henderson, Ky., a charitable foundation serving that community for nearly 30 years. She continues to play a key role in that foundation and has reviewed countless grant applications, noting how organizations with a variety of missions tell their stories. Leigh Anne has worked in the private sector as well, with an extensive background as a national trade association executive. Tracie has spent the majority of her career helping develop strategies and priorities to drive organizations forward. The founder of Alamo Kitchens, a culinary co-working space and incubator, she has spent the last several years working directly with small businesses as they launch, pivot and grow. She uses story, and the art of storytelling, to help organizations reach their target audience and make an impact in the community. 


Cyra Dumitru, MA - Writing as Meditation & Self-Care
Caring for the dying requires a clear sense of purpose, commitment, collaboration, patience, and deep inner grounding. Writing is one tool for the vital practice of the caretaker’s self-care: giving expression to our heart, soul, and mind. Cyra Dumitru will explore writing as a form of play and emotional release. Writing prompts will be woven throughout the program – we’ll have opportunities to share our writing during the closing ceremony. An accomplished poet for the past 35 years, Cyra has facilitated writing as a healing tool for people of all ages. She is a long-standing faculty member in English Literature and Language at St. Mary’s University, therapeutic practitioner with The Ecumenical Center for Religion and Health and one of three certified Poetic Medicine Practitioners in Texas.

Patsy and Edwin Sasek in conversation with Mary Thorsby - ABODE: The Story of a Successful Startup
What began as a vision to create a safe, peaceful and loving place for the dying has resulted in a truly beautiful home where those in their last weeks and days can leave this world with dignity and grace. ABODE Contemplative Care for the Dying staff and volunteers have cared for more than 200 guests since opening its doors in 2014. They have touched the lives of countless others in and around San Antonio. In this special session, Mary Thorsby will engage founders Edwin and Patsy Sasek in a conversation about what worked, what they would have done differently and how they created a community of compassion, love, and support that continues to thrive today. Edwin’s 27-year career as a hospice chaplain began in 1993 after completing a degree in hospice and grief counseling at the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Hospice Institute in New Mexico. During an internship in Uvalde, Texas, he met Patsy, a hospice educator. Edwin and Patsy are also artists, and they have collaborated on artwork including a line of greeting cards to help comfort dying and grieving people. Edwin’s vision of a spiritual community to care for the dying became reality when ABODE Contemplative Care of the Dying opened in 2014. Mary has spent more than 20 years working with and advising entrepreneurs, startups, Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits – building their followings and making connections to support and celebrate their success.


Waheeda Kara - Diversity Doesn't Always Mean Inclusion
Most of us are lucky enough to attract incredibly diverse guests, visitors and supporters to our homes – people of different ethnicities, customs, beliefs, ages, and experiences. Waheeda Kara will share her expertise in how to care for guests from diverse backgrounds while being sensitive to their needs. Learn techniques on how to be genuinely inclusive in thought, word, and action. The better we become at understanding and working within our differences, the better we can care for those who need us the most. Waheeda is president of the Inter Organization Collaborative and chair of the SOL Interfaith Center. She serves on the boards of ABODE, Awaaz, Victims of Domestic Violence, San Antonio Cancer Educators Collaborative and Musical Bridges Around the World. In addition, she has served as a national board member for FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance USA, as vice chair for Aga Khan Foundation USA - Southwest Region and she co-founded the Muslim Cultural Heritage Society.

Suzette O'Calliham, RN - ABCs of Running a Three-bed Home
Based on her in-depth experience in managing ABODE, Suzette O’Calliham will cover the 1,243 things needed to run a three-bed home in Texas. (Maybe closer to 10 things, but some days it feels like more.) From the art of admissions, to working with hospices and volunteers, to maintaining paperwork in-house, Suzette has lived through some experiences and has tales to tell. Most of them are true. Bring your questions and your sense of humor. A registered nurse for 43 years, Suzette manages the End-of-Life Navigators, visits potential Guests and their families and tends to ABODE’s day-to-day needs.

Tom Comstock, MD - Exploring Our Compassionate Heart
Compassion is a vital human quality, especially for those who work in the field of end-of-life care. Recent studies indicate that by expanding our compassionate hearts, we can increase our general sense of well-being, experience less burnout and increase our resiliency in the face of suffering. In this session, Tom Comstock will help us examine our sense of compassion and practice some techniques that may help us become more spontaneous and effective in our compassionate response to those around us. Tom is a semi-retired physician who has practiced medicine since 1975. He has studied and practiced meditation for the past 25 years, primarily in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. As a certified instructor of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), he has taught in a Central American prison and at the Emory University School of Medicine. Tom is co-founder and vice president of Compassion House for Living and Dying, a home in the early stages of development for people at the end of life in Atlanta. 

Edwin Sasek - Exploring Mindfulness for Guest and Self
The practice of contemplative care begins with mindfulness – a deepening awareness of the present moment unfolding in our lives. How can this simple practice, as ancient as human exploration into mystery and consciousness, help in our own care, so that we can benefit others through compassionate presence? Edwin Sasek will lead a simple mindfulness practice, including time for discussion. Edwin’s 27-year career as a hospice chaplain began in 1993 after completing a degree in hospice and grief counseling at the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Hospice Institute in New Mexico. Edwin’s vision of a spiritual community to care for the dying became reality when ABODE Contemplative Care of the Dying opened in 2014. Last year, the Saseks opened Las Almas gallery and gift shop in an oasis of oaks near ABODE.

Kathy Phoenix, LCSW - Understanding the Impact of Military Culture on the Veteran's End-of-Life Journey
Those who have served in our armed forces face unique challenges at the end of their lives – and significant struggles as they enter their final days. Kathy Phoenix will cover the various military cultural influences that contribute to a veteran’s experience. She’ll also distinguish between the different wartime eras and examine their impact on a veteran’s experience. And she’ll review interventions that can be helpful when providing care to veterans at the end-of-life. Kathy has had the privilege of journeying with individuals as a social worker since 1989, working in the areas of mental health, chronic illness, geriatrics, palliative, and hospice care and grief and bereavement. Kathy also has served in the U.S. Army Reserve and continues to incorporate veterans and their families into her social work.

Robert Soza - Structuring and Managing Your Board of Directors
A board of directors can be just as helpful to non-profits as they are in the corporate world. With the right mix of influence, affluence, and experience, each member can contribute a wealth of knowledge, expertise, connections and financial resources to your organization. A strong board also can lend credibility and legitimacy to your initiatives. Robert will cover the ins and outs of boards and how to use them wisely. Robert is an attorney with Jackson Walker, specializing in commercial and environmental disputes. He began his legal career in Los Angeles where he served as a staff attorney on the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, “The Christopher Commission,” that investigated excessive use of force by the LAPD after the Rodney King riots. In addition to his law practice in San Antonio, he devotes time to promoting and working on pro bono and public interest projects. Robert now serves as the president of ABODE’s Board of Directors.

Dr. Martha Jo Atkins - The Art of Challenging Conversations
Dr. Naomi Remen writes about helping vs. fixing vs. service. From this framework, starting with managing our own energy first, Martha Jo Atkins will share tools for approaching potentially challenging conversations with Guests, families, and colleagues. Martha Jo is a death educator, professional counselor, researcher and executive director of ABODE. Founder of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas in 1997 and a TEDx speaker on deathbed phenomenon, Martha Jo is happiest at the bedside talking with Guests and families. Her research centers on the trajectory of dying – especially the language, metaphors, and movements common in the dying experience. Her book, “Signposts of Dying,” was born of her personal and professional experiences with people at end of life.

Peg Armstrong - Mother Teresa's Calcutta Training Camp: My Month on the Extreme Edge
When psychotherapist Peg Armstrong started her practice in 1979, she was unprepared for the onslaught of young men dying of AIDS. The solution? Learn to care for the dying alongside Mother Teresa. What Peg learned in Calcutta was not what she bargained for, but it has transformed her approach and led her to assist with the creation of ABODE. She believes we all have the power to serve as Mother Teresa served. Peg’s 40-year practice offers a specialty in grief and bereavement counseling. An early personal tragedy propelled her into a lifelong career in coping with loss, a major theme in her academic research, training, and teaching, her work with psychotherapy clients and in her spiritual practices. Peg studied psychology and philosophy with Viktor Frankl in Vienna. Other highlights in her training include a workshop by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and working with Mother Teresa in India.

Rich Ferguson, MD - Mary's Quest for Death: Enable or Impede? An End-of-Life Care Ethics Case Study
Regardless of how long we’ve worked in this field, we’re often faced with challenging ethical decisions when caring for our guests. How much should we step in? When should we step back? Hospice physician and longtime ABODE supporter Rich Ferguson explores concepts of suffering and options for a “good death” as well as techniques for communicating bad news. Rich is an internist, hospice physician, and director of Embrace Hospice in San Antonio. He served as the first director of the Hospice and Palliative Care fellowship in the Audie Murphy Hospital. His ability to engage in difficult questions about dying and the changes in behavior that it incurs makes him a popular conference facilitator on death and dying.

Glenn Day and Chris Shasteen - Risk Management & Insurance Issues for Community End-of-Life Homes
Insurance professionals Chris Shasteen and Glenn Day from HUB International’s Healthcare team will step through a typical community end-of-life home insurance program including Management Liability (Directors & Officers Liability, Employment Practices Liability, Crime, Cyber Liability), Professional Liability & General Liability, Workers’ Compensation and Auto Insurance. Learn how coverage applies to employees, volunteers, and independent contractors, whether your home should have a medical director, how to minimize risk and where to find helpful resources. Glenn has been in the insurance industry his entire career. He maintains close working relationships with top carriers in the healthcare field and coordinates personnel and resources to deliver high-level service to HUB’s healthcare clients. In 2014, Glenn was awarded The Medical Protective Company’s Buchman Award that recognizes significant contributions in serving and providing solutions for the healthcare community. Christine has more than 30 years of experience in the insurance industry with specific expertise in healthcare, executive liability and professional liability. During her seven years at HUB, she has focused on healthcare clients, earning certification as an expert in HUB’s healthcare specialty practice.


Robert Soza - Why Your Policies & Procedures Matter
Do you struggle with decision making? Are you often unsure if you’re choosing the best options? Do you worry about operating inconsistencies? Then you may want to revisit your policies and procedures – or create new ones. Robert Soza will show us the essential policies and procedures end-of-life homes require. He also will show how to write them, using ABODE’s own policies and procedures as a model that you are welcome to adapt to your own home’s needs and culture. Robert is an attorney with Jackson Walker, specializing in commercial and environmental disputes. He began his legal career in Los Angeles where he served as a staff attorney on the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, “The Christopher Commission,” that investigated excessive use of force by the LAPD after the Rodney King riots. In addition to his law practice in San Antonio, he devotes time to promoting and working on pro bono and public interest projects. Robert now serves as the president of ABODE’s Board of Directors.

Regina Waters, PhD - Managing the Storm: The Essentials of Crisis Communication Planning
Crisis events can strike any organization. Surprisingly, many leaders say their organizations are unprepared to handle an event that disrupts operations and/or harms their institution’s reputation. Regina Waters will introduce a crisis planning framework that supports the broader communication strategy of any organization. We will review crisis threats most relevant to Social Model Hospice Homes, the elements of a crisis plan and message strategies and templates that can facilitate effective and timely communication with stakeholders. You’ll leave the session prepared to lead a team through the steps of crisis planning. Regina is a professor of communication and dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. Regina teaches integrated marketing communication courses and is interested in health communication campaigns. In 2018, she guided a student team in the development of the BucketList+1 campaign, a grant-funded initiative that promotes completion of advance directives. 

Ed Alderette, MED, MSW - Guided Meditation
Ed’s stellar career includes 29 years as a psychotherapist, more than seven years as an administrator for statewide mental health programs, six years as a professor at Tulane University’s medical school and at the Our Lady of the Lake graduate program and more than six years in the priesthood. He has been an active ABODE volunteer since 2015 and facilitates two meditation groups each week.


View Agenda→          Register Now→




Our beautiful Birth Month Flower art comes from artist Nikki D. May – you’ll find her flowers on a number of great products! Use code OMEGA when you make a purchase and she’ll donate a portion of her sales to our conference.