Owners of the 40 Living Memorial Gardens gathered together to celebrate the lives of their loved ones on Friday, Sept. 25.
Each garden and its owner has a unique story. But they share one thing in common; all are living memories of murder victims.
The Parents of Murdered Children, Delaware County Chapter, commemorated the third annual National Day of Remembrance at the gardens in Upper Chichester. Located on 3.5 acres, the gardens, decorated with flowers, benches and personal items, are a peaceful place for members.
“I come as often as I can to sit on her bench and talk to her,” Tom McPhee, Cabrini public safety officer and member of the chapter, said.
McPhee joined the chapter shortly after his daughter Stephanie, age 26, was murdered by her husband on Sept. 10, 2001.
McPhee now meets with the chapter on the last Tuesday of every month.
“We get together each month and talk about how the month went. If you want to cry, cry. If you want to curse, curse,” McPhee said.
“It’s a relief valve for us because we can talk about things with people who are going through the same thing. It takes away the pressure and stress.”
The Delaware County Chapter of The Parents of Murdered Children was started after founder Barbara DiMario’s daughter, Hope, was murdered in 1993.
DiMario was confused about the conviction process of her daughter’s murderer.
“The room was filled but no one told you anything,” DiMario said.
This motivated her to create a group for survivors so they could deal with grief and the criminal justice system.
DiMario worked with the district attorney and police chief to obtain the property, which would later become the gardens.
At the remembrance ceremony, attendees listened to emotional poems and songs, two of which were sung by Cabrini Public Safety Officer Dave Duncan, who was invited by McPhee.
Faces of members’ loved ones were visible on a remembrance quilt that hung in a gazebo and on t-shirts and pins they wore.
The Rev. John Large and State Rep. Steve Barrar were featured speakers.
“There are too many murders, but one murder is too many,” Large said.
The group prayed that they would see a day where there would be no more murders.
“My role is to make laws that prevent violent crime and emotional trauma. We need to make criminals think twice before taking a life,” Barrar said.
“We need to make sure that our loved ones, taken by the hand of another, are never forgotten.”
McPhee, along with his wife Jane, took part in the presentation of candles and roses.
The ceremony concluded by singing “We are the survivors,” the national song for The Parents of Murdered Children.
The song’s chorus sums up the organization and its national ceremony.
“We are the survivors, left behind to carry on. We are the survivors, joined together we are strong. We will speak out for our loved ones who were not given a choice. We are the survivors, hear our voice.”