Love Casts Out Fear
513,000. That’s the number of children living in foster homes in the United States. That’s the number of children waiting for a family to love them like the Kromer’s loved Clara.
Dave and Tami Kromer felt the pull to adopt again in the spring of 2012. They already had five children – Ray (16), Dean (14), Lillie (10), Josh (6) and Lydia (4), – the youngest two adopted from foster care. They began putting some feelers out in the adoption network and quickly learned of children who needed a family. After losing a child to another family, and desperately trying to save money for an adoption, the Kromer’s learned about Clara.
“I got this email about a girl in Arizona that they called ‘Sweetie,’ Tami said. “I knew right away that she was my daughter. I immediately applied for her – I didn’t even wait for Dave to get home from teaching. I knew she was ours.”
That’s when the miracles began. Tami started sewing to generate money. She received many orders, and several clients wrote checks for amounts larger than their total. Others donated to help cover the costs of the adoption. In total, Clara’s adoption would cost $9,600. Friends and neighbors all stepped in – doing laundry when Tami was in Arizona, setting up a meal train for almost a whole month, running errands and helping with the other children. And, literally 18 minutes before Tami needed to leave for the airport for her flight home with Clara, she received approval that the adoption was finalized – and they could go home.
Clara was blind, had a feeding tube, a shunt to drain excess fluid from her skull cavity to her stomach and poor circulation. She was born with hydranencephaly, a condition in which children have no brain, operating solely on the brain stem. There is no cure, and children with hydranencephaly often die within their first year. Dave and Tami Kromer knew of Clara’s condition and adopted her anyway.
Everyone deserves to be loved. Everyone deserves a family.
Was raising a child with such special needs difficult for the Kromer’s? No, says Tami with a laugh. “Our biggest problem was fitting eight people in a seven person vehicle. But we solved that by taking two vehicles everywhere.”
The Kromer’s believe their purpose is to celebrate Clara’s life and make every day amazing. “Clara’s sole existence was to receive love. She is a blessing, not to be pitied, but to be celebrated. Clara’s diagnosis was terminal, but so is everyone’s. We are all human.”
That’s how they decided on Arbor Hospice. With the help of Arbor Hospice, Clara and her family LIVED. The Arbor Hospice team listened to Tami and Dave’s concerns, answered their questions and provided a supportive presence. The Arbor Hospice team traveled to their home and all Clara’s medical supplies were delivered to their doorstep.
“The extra support was amazing,” Tami said. “We had access to pet therapy, volunteer photography, music and massage therapy and grief counseling. When the Arbor Hospice team visited, we would chat about much more than hospice stuff. I could tell they loved our family too.”
Alpine, Arbor Hospice’s pet therapy dog visited often and loved on Clara and her siblings. Every other week, the music therapist, Norma, visited with creative ideas for the whole family. One week, Norma and Lillie traced Clara’s hand on paper and the children painted while Norma’s playlist echoed in the room.
“Clara enjoys music and the sounds of her siblings’ voices,” Tami said. “And, who wouldn’t love an hour in the warm sun with lavender oil massaged into your skin?”
When Clara died on April 16, a little over eight months old, she was surrounded by her family. Dave and the kids were called home from school, family and friends gathered to say good-bye and pray, and the Kromer’s rejoiced Clara’s life – however short it may have been.
A few days after Clara’s death, her family did what they do best – they celebrated Clara’s life with love. A CLARAbration was held at the family’s church – complete with balloons, cake and a party.
The day of the CLARAbration, the Kromer’s received Clara’s birth certificate in the mail. “Somehow fitting on the very day we were celebrating her life, I received the declaration of her life,” Tami said.
It may seem like a natural reaction for people to avoid getting close to Clara. After all, she would leaving shortly. Yet, Clara brought many life-changing moments to the Kromer’s, their family, friends and acquaintances. Even those with the fear of becoming attached.
“I can’t tell you how often someone would tell us ‘Now, I understand’ after holding her. Everything changed in that moment. She changed hearts. She challenged people with the truth that perfect love casts out fear.”
The Kromer’s aren’t sure what their family’s future holds. It’s too soon to know if they will foster or adopt again.
“We miss her terribly, but every day has its own joy,” Tami said. “Most days are really good, some days have hard times, but we are working together through them. Above all, we are so thankful we were able to be her family and love her without holding back.”
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