A very special event was held in the Great Room of Ames Family Hospice House recently. It was not just the dedication of 10 custom-built rocking chairs. It was also a family reunion, a celebration of life and love, and a way for a hospice family to say, “thank you.” The rocking chairs were made especially for Hospice of the Western Reserve and Hospice of Medina County so that babies and young children can be comforted, cuddled and rocked.
A special delivery
The story behind this generous donation from the Eleonore Rocks Foundation is truly inspiring. In November of 2009, Rochelle and Dave Friedrich were excitedly expecting their third child. Sadly, Eleonore died only five days after she was born. In their own words: “While Eleonore was only with us for a short time, she left quite an impression and reminded us just how precious life is. Eleonore Grace rocked our lives in a way that words cannot fully express. We established this foundation to honor Eleonore's memory and to support other families enduring similar heartaches. We only hope and pray to make her proud of our efforts to honor her memory.”
Dave poured his energy into starting the Eleonore Rocks Foundation. A fierce athlete who completed five Ironman competitions, Dave enlisted the help of many other athletes. Working together, they helped the Foundation raise over $450,000 to construct and donate more than 600 rocking chairs to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) throughout the country.
Tragically, Dave developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. He and his family received great comfort from Hospice of the Western Reserve’s Westlake Home Care Team. Dave especially enjoyed music therapy provided by the board-certified music therapist on his hospice care team. He spent his last days at Hospice of the Western Reserve’s in-patient care unit, Ames Family Hospice House, in February of 2016, surrounded by his loving family. He was only 45 years old. Soon thereafter, Rochelle told the hospice team members she wanted to donate rocking chairs to Hospice of the Western Reserve. Rochelle’s father, Bob Martin, has taken on some of Dave’s work at the Foundation; he worked closely with the nonprofit agency as the chairs were constructed.
The rocking chairs were delivered in early July 2016. There are four for the agency’s Ames Family Hospice House in Westlake, four for David Simpson Hospice House in Cleveland and two for the Hospice of Medina County Care Center.
Typically, the Foundation donates rocking chairs to hospitals that care for infants. However, this donation was made to Hospice of the Western Reserve as a “thank you” for the hours, smiles and normalcy that the team members brought to Dave, his family and his friends. It was also made in recognition of the palliative and hospice care provided to seriously ill infants and young children by the agency’s Pediatric Team.
The chairs were constructed by Amish craftsmen in the Fredericksberg/Kidron area. “The workmanship is second to none, and the design perfectly complements the decor of the hospice houses,” said Bob Phillips-Plona, Director of Residential Care. “They are exceptionally comfortable, with wide arm rests that are scaled perfectly for rocking a baby. They are a very welcome addition to each of our in-patient care units.” Phillips-Plona greeted the audience at the chair dedication event on Sept. 9, which included about 60 members of the extended family and friends from near and far, as well as many members of Dave’s hospice care team. The atmosphere was bittersweet. All had been touched by Dave’s courage, love for his family, and desire to help others. New babies and young children were cuddled and admired by aunts, uncles and grandparents; family members hugged the hospice team members who had supported them.
Rochelle’s brother, Rob Martin, described the Eleonore Rocks Foundation’s mission: to make a positive impact on the lives of sick children and their families. Father Joseph Mamich, Pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Strongsville and a close friend and spiritual advisor to the Friedrich family, asked all present to extend their hands as he blessed the chairs and all of the parents and babies who will rock in them in the future. Fr. Joe noted that he felt that Dave was looking down with his characteristic smile and giving his ”both thumbs up” sign. Alie Brooke, the board-certified music therapist who had worked closely with Dave, played music that had great meaning for Dave, with themes of adversity, strength, and optimism.
Diane Snyder Cowan, Director of the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss and Roberson Bereavement Centers, noted that rocking chairs provide comfort and soothe us with their gentle motion. “Unconsciously, we associate the rocking motion with that of the safety and comfort felt when rocking in our parent’s arms or in a cradle or in the womb.” She added that what mattered most, and what provided meaning and purpose, was love and comfort. “Your hearts have grown with your grief and have transformed you and your family. And Hospice of the Western Reserve’s families have received the benefit of this transformational grief. What a wonderful gift. We are truly grateful.”
At the conclusion of the dedication event, everyone enjoyed the delicious lunch provided by Rochelle. The family then took flowers to the cemetery, where Dave’s headstone had just recently been set in place. Hospice of the Western Reserve is honored to have cared for Dave, and the agency will continue to provide services to support the family members in their grief journey.