The death of Mustafa Bundy Head remains an open wound for his loved ones.
His fatal August 2009 shooting in Atlantic City’s Back Maryland, remains unsolved.
But now his family wants to make his name part of a place of healing and reflection.
Muh’s Garden of Life will formally debut Sunday, beginning with the names of nearly 60 of the city’s lives lost to violence and drugs.
“I want to honor every single one in an elegant way with no blemishes,” says Stephen Head, Mustafa’s younger brother.
Head originally was trying to a have a street named for his brother. But the red tape was frustrating.
Then, one day he was standing in the lot off Virginia Avenue in the Atlantic Marina, when he saw the memorial.
“I was standing in the garden before it was a garden. A grassy lot with dookie in it… and (the idea for the garden) fell from the sky,” Head explains.
He sent out a prospectus with a vision statement, the need and goals. He pointed out that the current remembrances amount to candles, balloons and stuffed animals left at the scene where someone died.
“The mini-memorials, after being exposed to the elements, become dirty, grimy, wet and — with the exception of the stuffed animals — at times unrecognizable,” he wrote. “Because of the elemental damage to the mini-memorials, maintenance has no choice but to remove the mini-memorial and face the wrath of family members and friends that originally created the mini-memorials in the first place. Neither maintenance nor the family members should have to go through that type of ordeal.”
Not a lot of people responded, he said. But AtlantiCare and the CRDA did help, along with the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City.
The garden will honor each life with a flower or tree, and their names will have a permanent place.
Head said he hopes to have similar memorials in each neighborhood, honoring those lost there.
Bundy Head was not far from this place, shooting dice with friends when the gunfire erupted.
Four men were struck.
Bundy Head died days later, at the age of 25.
His daughter turned 9 that September.
Anaija Head says her father has remained a part of her life, through pictures and stories.
Her family moved away from Atlantic City, but death brought them back often.
“It was a never-ending grieving cycle,” she says.
Now a student at Virginia Tech, the 20-year-old woman is working on the garden with her uncle and grandmother, Jeanette Bundy, known to many as “Aunt Buttons.”
Jeanette Bundy still lives in Atlantic City, in the home not far from where her son was gunned down.
At the time, Bundy said she didn’t hear the gunshots, just the banging on her door at 3 a.m., telling her Mustafa had been shot.
“I’m going home,” he told her when he left that night.
“It’s still hard on her,” Anaija says of her grandmother.
The family knows how deep and hurtful the grief can be.
“There is a great deal of stress and anxiety that accompanies grief and not having a viable outlet for that grief can lead to depression, difficulty sleeping, feelings of anger and more,” Stephen Bundy says. “Family and friends will have a peaceful and serene designated location that will allow them to reminisce, grieve and heal.”
The garden will officially open Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m.