Missing Mal

I found out today that a friend of the family passed away recently.  He was 74, and in good health — his death was very sudden, resulting from complications after hip surgery.  I am shocked to hear of his death.  He was a vibrant, kind, passionate, funny, joyful, exuberant and loving man, and it makes me so very sad to know that he is no longer with us, that I will never again get to hear his laugh, or one of his amazing stories.

Malcolm Davis came into my life, in a way, before I was born.  He was a boss, mentor, and dear friend of my father’s, years before my parents had married, or even met.  For as long as I can remember, my dad has told stories (edited less and less as we got older) including Mal.

I suspect I met him before that, but my first memory of knowing Mal was at my father’s wedding to my stepmother when I was 15.  He performed the wedding ceremony.  I hadn’t attended many weddings at that point, but I remember (very distinctly) how personal, kind and true his words were.  It wasn’t “just” a wedding ceremony — the things that he said were directed, very particularly, to my father and stepmother, to me and my brothers and my sisters, and to the others that were gathered together that day.  I was impressed (and surprised) to find out that Mal was “really” a minister — to my 15 year old mind, he did not fit with my image.  He was funny, tolerant, inclusive . . . and he absolutely had to have a drink of bourbon before he could bring himself to get up in front of the assembled party to perform the wedding.  He was altogether something I had never experienced before, and I understood a little of why my father had always spoken of him with such love and admiration.

9 years later, I got to know Mal a little better — I, myself, had gotten engaged, and Dan & I sought him out to perform our wedding.  In the intervening years, I had attended many weddings, and I had never been to one that seemed so personal as my Dad’s.  Not belonging to any particular church, and desperately detesting the idea of having “just someone” marry us, I so badly wanted Mal to preside over our wedding.  As luck would have it, he was available (or made himself available).  We met with him a few times, and spoke several more — jovial and light-hearted, as he was, he took marrying someone quite seriously, and he counseled us a bit, and helped us design our own wedding ceremony.  He preferred that we write our own vows (which we did).  He was excellent as our officiant — it was just as personal, as kind and as momentous as it should have been.  (We did, also, provide him with bourbon prior to the event.)  I feel so honored to have known him in this way.  His gift of his heart, his time and his energy, made our wedding very special, and I’m grateful that it gave me the opportunity to get to know him myself.

In the years that have passed since, I have seen him just a few times.  We were invited to join him, his wife, Judy, my dad and stepmother for dinner.  The last time I saw him, maybe 2 years ago, just at this time of year, he also got to meet Benjamin.  He told the most amazing stories, laughed often and uniquely, and never failed to share his opinion.  Most recently, he’s heckled me about my blog when I’ve been a little too ungracious — I would expect nothing less.

To many other people in the world, he’s known for his pottery.  Other than getting to own (and appreciate) a few of his pieces, I know very little of that part of him.  To me he is my father’s dear friend, the minister who performed my wedding, and a very cool person.  Reading now, after his death, about some of the parts of his life I knew nothing about, I am even more amazed by him (and more deeply touched at the time and effort he made to officiate at our wedding).  His life is a testament to what can be when you let go of what it “should” be or what you “ought” to do.  He followed his passions, lived his conscience and led an adventurous, joyful life.

Although I really didn’t know him well, he made an impact on me.  I even thought about trying to go home for any services or memorials that might yet be held.  But, then I imagined him saying, “You’re going to do WHAT?  Oh my, why on earth would you do THAT?”

Life is so short and goes so quickly.  The world has lost someone very special, indeed.  I am sad to know that he is gone.

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