On Friday I attended the funeral of Kerry Edsall, another woman taken too early by breast cancer. She was only 57 and leaves behind two gorgeous daughters and her husband.
I met Kerry when I was an official with the CPSU, in the early 2000's. I knew about her as the dedicated workplace delegate in the Centrelink call centre in Geelong. She quickly became a very important member of our executive and many negotiating teams. It was nice to have another woman on our side of the table.
I liked Kerry's blunt, no-nonsense and often dryly funny approach to life. I knew that I could always rely on her to tell me the truth. During negotiations we would all be away from home for days on end and she seemed to have unending stamina for socialising at the end of a hard day or putting in long hours at the end of negotiations to work out our position for the next day or find a solution to some problem.
When I called Kerry to tell her that I was moving on in 2008, she was characteristically wry: "And who said that you could do that Ms Edlington?"
The other time I found myself in trouble with Kerry was when I failed to win the million dollars on a television game show. I carried over two weeks and she told me that everyone was lined up to watch me win. I recall her saying to me, "Well that was a bit of a fizzer. I guess we're stuck with you then."
The auditorium on Friday was packed to standing room only and filled with warmth and love for a woman who gave a lot of herself to support other workers and their families. It was a fitting and proud celebration of Kerry's life. I was surprised to learn how her own family didn't really appreciate the extent of her standing within the union community. It must have been overwhelming for them.
It was bittersweet to be seeing people with whom I once worked very closely, but had not really seen in the last seven years. The human joy at continuing acquaintance and hearing about the lives of others is not suppressed even when one of your number is no longer here.
A few months ago Kerry contacted me to seek help with getting started on sock knitting. "I've been told I need to find something to do while I'm sitting on my skinny arse, so I've decided to knit socks. Where do I start?" As a devoted and prolific sock knitter myself I was able to help. I told her not to freak out when she got to the gusset and just to follow the instructions. The last time we spoke, Kerry told me she was having trouble and needed help with her gusset. I laughed. Blunt and funny until the end.
Thanks for being part of my life Kerry.