My close friend and comrade Geraldine Alferoff died suddenly at her home in Knighton, Wales on 21 July.
Last Friday at her cremation in Hereford I gave the following address.
We will be celebrating her life at an event in Walthamstow, London E17 on 8 October.
“Geraldine’s death, someone we know and love, was both shocking and painful, even more so as it was unexpected. We are here today to offer our personal and collective goodbyes to her.
This gathering also brings us together to express sadness at our loss but also to celebrate the life she lived and to remember the contribution she made to all our lives.
I wondered just what could I say to express my feelings as someone who knew her from the time she joined Nalgo (the public sector white collar union)as a publicity field organiser in 1983, I think it was and worked with her along with other colleagues who are also here today, until I left UNISON as it was then called, in 1997. I continued to keep in touch with when she left Walthamstow to move to Knighton with her family in 2006.
On this occasion words don’t seem enough, but words are perhaps the only way we have of expressing ourselves. So I am reminded of a passage in a book ‘Some Lives’ written by Dave Widgery, a socialist and a doctor who lived and died in the East End of London. In the chapter ‘Not Going Gently’ which deals with loss, such as we are faced with today Dave writes:
“…How few deaths are ‘acceptable’. I was angry and hurt even when a ninety six year old friend died. Indeed you can get lost in a pit of grief, determining you will never laugh or dance or joke again. But humans are enormously adaptable, have way of healing their mental as well as physical pain. It’s not the passage of time that matters, however, but what you do with it. Only with efforts do we extract from the irreplaceable something that falls into place…”
Geraldine would not want us to get lost in a pit of grief as Dave Widgery calls it. When I came to stay with her and her family in early June she was talking about how she could get the local Labour Party, which she had joined along with many others following the election last year of Jeremy Corbyn, campaigning around local issues that would improve people’s lives. She would say in words well known to many of us: Don’t mourn, organise.
Geraldine has died but she still lives on in our hearts and minds. She is loved, her life valued and she will never be forgotten.”