RJF: A Garden to Grieve for Victims of Gun Violence

By Michele Sigg–

These photos are from the work day on May 8th at the Botanical Garden of Healing in Memory of the Victims of Gun Violence.

From 9 to 11:30, about half a dozen people from St. John’s got down and dirty, literally, at the Botanical Garden of Healing in Honor of/in Memory of Victims of Gun Violence. The garden is located at 100 Valley St., in Westville. Gabe Lepage was our fearless coordinator.

Work that we did: planting, watering, pruning, weeding, mulching, listening.
All work that God was doing in me at the same time.

One enters the garden by the “Walkway of Magnitude” that lists, from 1976 to 2021 and counting the New Haven victims of gun violence. I walked the path and read every name, from 0 to over 50. Kevin’s brick was one of the last, not yet mortared in. The number of victims in 2020 outweighs those in other years, except perhaps 1988.

I worked alongside several St John’s friends. I met a Ghanaian member of St. Luke’s Church.

I met three of the moms, including Kevin’s mom. Two of them were among the eight or so founding moms of the garden. Marlene was the one who came up with the vision for the garden, a place to grieve, to mourn, to seek peace. She found “her people” among the eight women listed on the stone marker who were part of a support group for families of homocide victims. She told me the story of her vision that started it all. I felt I had just met an extraordinary, powerful, deeply loving woman.

It was transformative work. I’d like to do it again.

As Gabe said in his thank you note to us: “The issue of violence in the city is a heavy one that brings us face to face with questions of suffering and how, in light of our faith, ‘to overcome evil with good.'”

>>>The dedication of the Garden in on June 10th. From now until then and beyond, there will be more workdays, most Saturdays. The RJF will keep you informed.

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