In The Beginning ........
Our Children's Memorial Walkway
How it Began- "Our Story"
All of us who have lost a loved one, in particular a child, want them to be remembered. Most of us take flowers to the graveside of our loved ones throughout the year, such as on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and so forth. You might find a small tree planted beside the grave.
Jerry Jonas Mudge lost two sons in a car crash in 1990.
"It's getting close to the fall time of the year when people think of planting flowers, plants and/or trees. Before my sons died, I loved the beautiful fall colors, like red and burnt orange. For me it meant Christmas would soon be coming. Even though I have never had a 'green thumb', we planted a vegetable garden every fall. But then my two sons died together in the fall (October 1990) and the changing colors on leaves became a reminder that they were dead and part of me died with them. In the cold of winter, February 1991, my husband Leon and I began to dream of life again. Leon Jr.'s birthday was coming in a week on February 17 and we found a spot in our front yard to begin a Memorial Garden in both our son's memories. We planted over 500 bulbs and two trees. Leon Jr.'s tree was a white dogwood and our other son's, Wayne, was a pink dogwood, Wayne's life was always more daring. He liked to take risk, so I wanted his tree to be different than the usual dogwood.
As I planted the bulbs, I thought of how all our children are laid in the ground like these ugly brown dead-looking bulbs and then covered with dirt. But Praise God, this is not the end for the bulbs or our children. It is the beginning of new life where they bloom forever. Death is not the end for a Child of God. Now every year, I look forward to planting season, knowing that I will see these come to life in the spring.
Footprints Ministry members planted the first garden as a group for Jewel Funderburk, who lost her son Arteze to murder in April 1993. She found out a few months later that she was fighting breast cancer. By the fall of 1994, her spirits were really down and she thought her time was coming to join her son in Heaven. Her other son, Boomer, called me and expressed his deep concern for his mother. I remember that I had six daffodil bulbs that I was ready to add to my garden, but instead I took them over to Jewel's house. After hugging and praying with her, I showed her the bulbs and promised her she would see them come up in the spring. With the help of four other bereaved parents (one father and three mothers), we planted the bulbs. Some of them brought plants to add to mine. Out of this grew the dream for a community garden, where we all could come together as a family and remember our beloved children. By the Grace of God, Jewel did see her garden come to life in April 1995 and also April 1996 before she joined her son, Arteze. She was an inspiration to all members of our group. We have also helped plant two more gardens for bereaved parents. The one for Ann Stephens is in her yard at the very place her son was murdered. Another was for Barbara Sanders who's teenage son was murdered.
A few years after our sons died, my first husband of thirty five years, joined our Leon Jr. and Wayne. I met my current husband Skip Mudge at a new church that I joined. Skip also had a recent loss of his wife and his son Jeff. Skip and I have a garden in remembrance of our sons in whatever home we have lived. We had a metal plate containing Leon Jr.'s and Wayne's pictures, rocks engraved with their names or symbols of what they enjoyed and other interesting memorabilia."
A New Memorial Garden is Born
In December 1998, Footprints Ministry held a Memorial Service at a local church to remember all our children who have died. Charlotte Mayor, at the time, Pat McCrory was in attendance, and graciously gave a talk for us. After the candle lighting ceremony, Jean Randall went up to mayor McCrory and told him that he needed to talk to Jerry Mudge about a memorial garden site in our city for us to remember our children. In the next few months, several bereaved moms who lost children formed a committee to help work on the details of arranging a non-profit corporation aimed at starting a local memorial garden. From Jean speaking out on our behalf and the committee's momentum to engage plans, the Walkway and Garden was born.
On Tuesday, December 7, 1999, Mecklenburg County approved the use of Frazier Park in uptown Charlotte to be our site for Our Children's Memorial Walkway. With the help of the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, this is a dream that has finally come true. Frazier Park is located at 1201 West Fourth Street in the historic Third Ward community of Charlotte. Our Children's Memorial Walkway at Frazier Park offers a positive and tranquil environment to remember our children in the natures of a garden. This memorial is a springboard for our community to remember our children in a place of life.
To provide an enduring memorial as a comforting place of healing for those who have experienced the death of a child, family member, or friend; and to do community outreach to help families who are grief stricken. In addition; to have a positive place to remember children of all ages. Bereaved parents often fear their child will be forgotten; A place for families and friends to meet regardless of one's race or denomination; A place for the community to come together and show their support and appreciation for the lovely garden.
Founder of Our Children's Memorial Walkway, Jerry Mudge joined her beloved sons Leon Jr. and Wayne, and all her beloved family and friends in heaven on April 21, 2017. Rest in Peace Jerry, your gifts continue on in the gardens!
Jerry loved butterflies. Addendum: Jerry's husband Skip Mudge joined Jerry in heaven on February 10, 2020.
A Butterfly lights up beside us, like a sunbeam... and for a brief moment it's glory and beauty belong to our world... but then it flies on again, and although we wish it could have stayed, we are so thankful to have seen it at all.