June 10, 2004
A UMNS photo courtesy of Igniting Ministry
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A UMNS Feature
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Tenn.— A garden on the edge of a busy intersection in this historic
town celebrates and honors the lives of children and brings peace to the
hearts of their parents.
Fifteen stones in the garden are engraved with the names of children who died too young.
rude, noxious sounds and smells of the constant stream of traffic
outside its gate fade as the serenity of this tiny oasis behind First
United Methodist Church soothes those who enter.
of the most striking features of the garden is a stone wall that
remains unfinished on each end, symbolizing the unfinished lives of the
children honored within. In every corner of the garden there are special
touches, most of them from the imagination of Leon Jones.
79, a member of First Church since 1992, says a former pastor mentioned
one day that the church seemed to have more than its share of parents
who had lost young children.
simple remark struck a chord in Jones’ heart. “It just seemed like this
forgotten group of children needed some kind of remembrance,” he
put a notice in the church newsletter asking for help with creating a
children’s memorial garden “and eight people showed up just out of the
clear blue sky,” he says. Some of them had lost children; others just
felt drawn to the idea.
UMNS photo by Lyle Jackson
Jeter, who lost her daughter Katie, says "You never want to see your
child's name etched in stone with a beginning and ending date."
Jones, a father
and grandfather, has never lost a child. Tears come to his eyes when he
says he cannot imagine the pain parents must feel.
Jeter, who lost her daughter as the garden was being constructed, knows
that pain. “You never want to see your child’s name etched in stone
with a beginning and ending date,” she says.
Jeter’s daughter, Katie, a 19-year-old freshman at Western Kentucky College, died in a car accident.
come by almost every Sunday,” Jeter adds, stroking the simple stone
that bears her daughter’s name. “It’s just a beautiful place. Katie came
to church every Sunday. I have two boys and when they have children,
their children can come here and see a memory of Katie.”
Young says the garden, like everything else in her life since she lost
her daughter, Amanda, is bittersweet. Young and her husband, Brent, were
part of the committee of eight that worked to bring the garden to life.
Beth Young died on Feb. 12, 2002, at age of 6. She was diagnosed with
leukemia when she was 2 years old. “She was wise beyond her years,” her
mother says. “Everyone who knew her just loved her. She was a special
Because purple was Amanda’s favorite color, Jones makes a special effort to include purple as much as possible in the garden.
The memorial garden has brought families together, many who did not know others in the congregation had also lost children.
McGinley lost her twin son and daughter almost 30 years ago. She and
her husband donated their bodies to science and never had a stone
anywhere to commemorate their short lives.
UMNS photo by Lyle Jackson
Sarah McGinley touches the stone engraved with the names of her twins who died shortly after birth.
The McGinleys, who
now have four children, say they felt a special need in their lives was
fulfilled when they were able to place a stone engraved with their
children’s names in the garden at the April 18 dedication service.
though Rachel only lived three days and Benjamin 10 days, they’re in
heaven just like someone who lived 50 years is in heaven, or 100 years
is in heaven,” Sarah says. “There is a real sense of peace in having a
place that you can come and just say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’”
Earwood, also a member of the garden committee, points to the two
stones she placed for the twin sons she lost soon after birth, Evan
Scott and Spencer Christopher.
She now has two other children but
says this garden gives her a place to come and be reminded of the gifts
her first two children gave her.
“What a wonderful church family we have that embraces and dedicates this space to the memory of these children,” says Jeter.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
News media can contact Kathy L. Gilbert at (615) 742-5470 or e-mail email@example.com.