SCORES of families attended a poignant Christmas remembrance service at Portchester Memorial Gardens yesterday.
Hundreds of people travelled to the gardens, off Upper Cornaway Lane, to mourn loved ones by singing Christmas carols and lighting candles.
Tina Symons, 43, of Field Lane, Gosport, was there to remember her late father Dave Croucher, who died in 2014, aged 65.
Travelling to the memorial gardens with her daughters, Emily, 13 and Isabel, 11, mum Sandra Croucher and uncle Brian Croucher, Tina said: ‘It’s been a very emotional evening for everyone.
‘It’s going to be our second Christmas without dad.
‘This is the first time we have brought his grandchildren down with us. It’s nice for them to see that they’re not the only children out there dealing with this.’
Tina added her dad had been ‘extremely close’ with his grandchildren, and that they had been ‘devastated’ when he died.
Dave’s brother Brian said the loss had left a big hole in the family.
‘He was a big character; he was brilliant. He would knit everyone together,’ he added.
The 30-minute service was organised by the team from the memorial gardens.
It was led by Carol Gully, the spiritual care chaplain at The Rowans Hospice, who recited poems and gave readings. Mourners gathered around the garden’s central pond to sing carols before then joining a minutes’ silence.
Julie Hind, director of the memorial gardens, said the evening was way of families uniting in grief. ‘It’s become a very important ceremony for our families here who have dedicated graves,’ she said.
‘We now have over 1,200 people attend the service and to them, Christmas time is an important time.
‘Everyone here is remembering those that are lost and are all united in sharing those moments.
‘It’s very poignant and I feel very humbled and privileged to be able to offer the service to our families here.’
The memorial gardens has been open for 13 years.
Yesterday’s service was the 12th of its kind at the site and saw one of the biggest attendances in recent years.
Julie added: ‘It started with just one or 200 people coming and it’s just grown over time.’
As the sun went down, families lit candles and placed them around the garden, while musician Daniel del Piccolo played the bagpipes.
The night also helped to raise money for The Rowans Hospice.