‘Our students are hurting’: Wilton school community mourns 3 deaths

WILTON — A group of about 100 people gathered Saturday outside Our Lady of Fatima Church to mourn the recent deaths of three members of the school community, including two students.

“It’s a time for the Wilton community to come together and mourn the students and custodian we lost,” Janet Nobles, a music teacher at Middlebrook School, said following the Service for Hope that was organized by Wilton’s Interfaith Clergy Association. “We are hurting. Our students are hurting.”

Cesar Jimenez, a longtime plant manager for the Wilton school district, died suddenly on Sept. 20. The next day, Wilton High School junior George DiRocco died from an apparent undetected heart condition. And last week, a high school student died from an apparent suicide.

Wilton residents Donna and Brad Savage were among those who attended the service.

“It’s absolutely necessary for the town to get together,” Donna Savage said. “Grieving requires human connection in order to get to a place of hope.

“As we come together, it becomes reality. Through grieving, we get to a hopeful place.”

Brad Savage saw it as a “sign of support for people in our community.”

Grief, hope and unity were the recurrent themes in the words of the clergy members representing numerous faiths throughout the town.

The Rev. Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, greeted the audience and promised that by coming together, the community would “rise like a phoenix from the fire. We get stronger, we get better, because we are united as Wiltonians.

“Why do we grieve? We grieve because we love,” he said. “No one should have to grieve alone.”

He encouraged those who are hurting to reach out for support. “We will help each other,” he said.

Hope Church Pastor Don Hay expanded on the theme of grief, saying “grief strips away all the things that we held onto and poses the question of what will you hold onto now.”

Faith, he said, is what people may turn to “when we feel we have nothing more to give.”

Cantor Harriet Dunkerley, spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Chaim, said “those who are no longer with us echo still within our thoughts, within our words, and what they did is part of what we have become.

“We do best homage to those we have lost when we live our lives more fully.”

She acknowledged our human frailties. In Judaism’s mourning, liturgy is a prayer that gives thanks for life despite these imperfections — “we are each perfect, and yet a little broken as well.” She sang of that gratitude in English and Hebrew, “I’m perfect the way I am and a little broken, too. I will live each day as a gift I give to you.”

Donya Sadeghi, a 2013 Wilton High School graduate, spoke on behalf of her mother, Dr. Golnar Sadeghi, who represents the Muslim community in Wilton.

She quoted Persian poet, Rumi, who said “goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes because for those who love with heart and soul there is no separation. All despair is followed by hope and all darkness is followed by light.”

She prayed for patience, strength and comfort and “to heal our hearts.”

The Rev. Anne Coffman invited the audience to participate in a litany by joining in with “we remember them.”

“In the beginning of the year and in the end — we remember them,” they prayed.

The Rev. Shannon White, of Wilton Presbyterian Church, closed the gathering with a reflection on “lament as a response to the suffering and sorrow in our current world. There is so much over which we need to lament.”

She urged people to to find ways to cope. “Write in journals, pray, talk to God, the God of your understanding,” she said, “read your sacred texts whatever they may be, talk with friends, talk with mentors, talk with mental health providers and eventually we will move on when the right time comes.”