MORGAN -- When Phil McLemore visited Maurell D. Brown at Family Tree Assisted Living Center here this week, he talked with Brown about their shared passion for chickens, and then he prayed with him.
McLemore has served as a chaplain with VistaCare Hospice for the past five years.
It's his job to join with a team of nurses, nurse's assistants and social workers in caring for the needs of those whose doctors certify them as being in their last six months of life.
Because the last six months are hard to predict, McLemore said he visits people anywhere from once to several visits over a year or more.
Brown's wife, Betty, said even though she and her husband are active and have much support from their Morgan LDS ward, their visits with McLemore over the past year have enriched their lives.
"I don't know what we'd do without him," she said.
Maurell Brown, a 79-year-old Korean war veteran who has congestive heart failure, which sometimes prohibits him from moving around, wore a smile while he talked with McLemore.
"We have a prayer every time he visits," he said. "We talk about different subjects."
McLemore said his job is different with each client he sees.
Sometimes clients don't have a spiritual home at all and end up adopting him as their personal pastor.
In these cases, he prepares himself to officiate at their funerals.
He said he presides over about one funeral a month.
But his duties vary from that to a much more casual relationship, such as the case with Brown.
The chaplain said his role is always meaningful to him personally as he seeks first to understand his clients' needs and then to serve them in whatever way they desire.
"I'm able to participate in one of the most significant events in a person's life," he said. "I'd say that was a good job."
McLemore is able to adapt his role widely depending upon the religious affiliation of those he serves.
McLemore grew up as a Catholic and was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 19.
He then completed graduate studies in theology as well as specialized divinity training provided by the Air Force. He served as a military chaplain for 20 years.
McLemore now is affiliated with The Christian Spiritual Alliance, which promotes interfaith worship and activities.
Outside of his work, he is over meetings this group promotes in the state of Utah.
As a hospice chaplain, McLemore sees around 60 to 70 clients, from Brigham City to North Salt Lake.
In Utah, he said his role often is intensified, even with those who have their own faith leaders, because of geographical concerns.
He said leaders of many congregations have a difficult time meeting all of their obligations simply because the geographical area covered by their congregations is relatively large compared to a similar group in another area of the country.
"I've had to arrange people from Salt Lake City to come if I need a particular brand of faith," he said.
Outside of coordinating their spiritual resources, McLemore said he also helps his patients prepare spiritually to face death.
That means exploring a person's doubts, fears or concerns.
"Regrets create emotional and spiritual suffering at the end," he said. "Much of the task is with relationships. I try to help them make peace."
The chaplain sometimes goes so far as to make the initial contact with those with whom the dying want to reconcile.
At times, helping a person face death means working with that person's family.
"Sometimes the person is ready," he said. "The work shifts to family members who are not allowing this person to go."
McLemore also strives to meet his clients' personal needs and desires through any act he may perform to make their lives more comfortable.
This may include playing music for them or bringing them a game or activity in which they may engage.