HUNDREDS united to celebrate the lives of late family and friends at an annual memorial service.
Braving freezing temperatures and pouring rain, crowds packed into Portchester Memorial Gardens on Sunday afternoon for its Christmas remembrance service.
The festive event is held each year in a bid to bring the community together in remembering and celebrating the lives of loved ones who have died.
Proceedings began with a welcome message from Carol Gully – The Rowans Hospice spiritual care chaplain – before visitors sang Christmas carols, heard a special poem and were serenaded with a rendition of Amazing Grace from Highland piper Daniel del Piccolo, before laying glass lanterns at family graves.
Ting-on Tsui from Cosham attended the event for the first time, following the death of his partner Leanne in July, aged just 34.
Reflecting on the service, he said: ‘It’s been absolutely lovely. This is a wonderful way to remember a loved one. I can’t quite describe it, but having other people around you like this, in the same boat, is very emotional and very moving. I’ll be coming back year-after-year.’
Bridgette Pratten, 51 from Gosport, went with her daughter, husband and two sisters-in-law.
A regular at the event, having attended every year since 2003, Mrs Pratten said: ‘I’m here to remember my father, mother, mother-in-law, her husband and my sister-in-law.
‘It’s a short service but it is very nice. The setting is beautiful and I think it’s run really well, you can even have a cup of hot chocolate and a mince pie afterwards. It brings you back with your family even though they’re not here.’
Having led the service, which concluded in a remembrance candle being floated into the middle of the memorial garden’s pond, Carol Gully said: ‘It’s very powerful to be able to come together with others like this and share that common loss, as it were.
‘So many people will be able to go away today and take great comfort from that.’
Julie Hind, one of the directors of Portchester Memorial Gardens, added: ‘Considering the weather conditions, this year’s service has been amazing. We’re really pleased – it just goes to show what it means to people.’