The Garden of Angels

With statues, crosses and Christmas ornaments, parents mourn and celebrate the memory of children taken by violence


In his cluttered garage in Fort Worth, 51-year-old Greg Price is working on three new crosses that will be dedicated this week. Like all others he's built--including the one for his nephew--the white crosses are 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. (Those he makes for children are a foot shorter and only 2 feet wide.) The crosses include the name, birth date and date of death of those they honor. If a family is able, it reimburses Price the $40 that materials cost him; if they can't, he does the work gratis.

"Every time I do a cross," he says, "it reminds me just how fragile life is. Each one we've put out there is special to me because it has provided me an opportunity to help someone. That's what the garden's all about." With that he pauses for a moment. "Still," he continues, "it's been a bittersweet experience. I've met so many really wonderful people--but only because someone they loved died."

Mark Graham

From top to bottom: The crosses for Vern Price and Amy Robinson were two of the original six in the garden; Carolyn Barker's hands mark the spot where the picture of her granddaughter Amy Robinson graces her cross; Barker says the garden is "nothing formal or fancy. Just a place where we could...remember our kids."
Mark Graham
From top to bottom: The crosses for Vern Price and Amy Robinson were two of the original six in the garden; Carolyn Barker's hands mark the spot where the picture of her granddaughter Amy Robinson graces her cross; Barker says the garden is "nothing formal or fancy. Just a place where we could...remember our kids."

Several miles away, in a quiet residential area of Grand Prairie, patrolman Gary Brooks sits in his living room, watching as his grandson wrestles with the aging and docile family dog. A man who has encountered countless instances of death and violence during two decades as a law enforcement officer, he admits that dealing with a murder that visited his own family has been difficult.

"In my business," he says, "you never expect the chief and the department chaplain to come knocking at your door, notifying you that your own kid has been killed. You never think that you might be in a position of asking for time off to figure out what to do with the rest of your life. Or to have to place a long-distance call to an ex-wife and tell her that her child is dead. Suddenly, you find out that there are a lot of hard things in life to deal with, things we never anticipate or really understand."

Such were the feelings he was dealing with on that Sunday as he paid his first visit to Our Garden of Angels. As he mingled among those who had survived similar experiences, he felt the weight of his burden begin to ease. "What is happening here," he told his wife, "is a good thing."

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