I am Malcolm’s dad, and I stand here together with Mona, Malcolm’s mom, and with James, Malcolm’s brother. Today we have the unenviable duties of celebrating Malcolm’s life and then saying goodbye.
Let me first thank all of you who are here today out of love and support for Malcolm and for us. We know that there are friends here today from Jesuit, Dominican, UNO, Tulane, St. Clement of Rome Parish, Touro Synagogue, the men and boys of Troop 491 and from as far way as Liverpool, England. You presence and your kindness and prayers have sustained us. We are humbled. In speaking to so many of you, in reading the text messages Malcolm is still receiving, and in seeing the many postings on Facebook, we have learned —even more than we knew before—how widely and deeply Malcolm was loved.
Of course, we have loved him deeply for 24 years. Therefore in the past few days all of us have asked over and over again, why? Why would Malcolm, so tender-hearted and sensitive and gifted and so deeply loved, why would he be, in the end, so terrified of life?
Those of us who knew Malc well, know that if he were here, he would jump in right now to lighten the moment for us. Proudly sporting his South Park tie, he would either quote Homer Simpson or utter one of his wonderful Malcolmisms. Then he would say, Dad, enough with the philosophizing. Just tell a story.
And he would be right. Whether we are comfortable with it or not, we are left with the mysteriousness of life. The answers we are looking for are ultimately known only by our good Lord. Malcolm was a wonderful and precious gift from God to Mona and me and James, and to all of us. He will always be a gift.
So, here are a few stories that celebrate who and what Malc was:
1) When Malcolm was very small he found a live crawfish making its way down the sidewalk in front of our house—an escapee from a neighbor’s crawfish boil. Rather than return the crawfish to its imminent death, he insisted that I drive him and the crawfish six blocks to the local canal. He wanted life for that crawfish. Soon after that he brought home his first pet: Harriet the hermit crab rescued from the beach at Biloxi. Graduating from crustaceans, he then rescued turtles.He had Browny 1, Browny 2, and then …Greeny. Malcolm had a unique and spare way with words. His favorite soft toy was called, simply, “friend.”
2) There was nothing Malcolm looked forward to more than our week-long family vacation at Percy Quin state park each summer. His absolute greatest joy was being at dawn or dusk waist deep in the lake, walking the shore, whipping his fly rod—in touch with the quiet life of the water and trees and fish—and an occasional alligator. It was at Percy Quin, in the cramped sleeping arrangements, at the exciting meals, and in the long after-dinner conversations, that he learned family history, and the love of his grandparents, Shirley and Mac, and felt the love of my three brothers, Tom and David and Pete, and their beautiful families. Fishing and family. Malcolm loved Percy Quin.
3) Malc carried his love of nature and fishing into his Jesuit Service Project—serving as a camp counselor for children with muscular dystrophy. What began as a required service project, he continued for 4 more years as an act of love. Malcolm had a fierce desire to make a positive difference in kids’ lives. He helped a boy in an electric wheel chair land his first fish by hooking a line with bunny bread and tying it to the boy’s wheelchair. What had seemed impossible for that child, Malcolm made possible. It would have been hard to tell who was more proud of that fish.
4) After Katrina, Mona and I stayed four months in Houston, committed to teaching our displaced Jesuit boys at Strake Jesuit. Malcolm returned as quickly as he could to our home in Metairie. For those four months he was the man of our house. Heroically, he lived alone, cleaned debris, patched our roof, fought fridge funk, and ate army rations for nearly a month. Malcolm persevered. He reveled in surviving the trying conditions.
As numbers slowly trickled back to Metairie, a call went out for Scoutmaster for Troop 491, the troop Malc had long been a member of. As an Eagle Scout himself, he knew the importance of once again giving these young men adventure and joy and normalcy. Malcolm stepped forward, a 23 year old young man, and was Scoutmaster for a year. He was beloved by his scouts.
In these last two years, while Malcolm lived at home with Mona and me—and attended graduate school at UNO, Malcolm has been a joy to live with. He was a wonderful son. And James is a wonderful son. There has never been a single minute when Mona and I have not been proud of our two boys—both outstanding young men. Malcolm was always quick to hug us and tell us over and over again that he loved us. But more than a loving son, Malc had become a good friend to us. We talked about literature and god and Jesus and life. We ate sushi, watched movies, shared stories and laughed. We are a family of such deep love for each other.
But the truth is that there are also darker stories, stories of past depression. Malcolm questioned and probed life and god at every turn. As much as there was about life that gave him joy, there were things that upset him. He worried about so many people. Sensitive and tender, he was quick to carry others’ burdens, but sadly, in the end, he could not bear his own.
For years Mona and I did everything we could to nurture him out of his fears. He really seemed to have risen above his depression. In these last two years at home with us he seemed the happiest he has ever been. Many of you have said the same. Sadly, we now know there was a truth he hid too deep for any of us to fathom. Knowing Malc, he fought his horrors alone because he did not want to burden the very people whom he loved and knew loved him.
There are 1000s of other stories. His incredible wit and intellect, his joy in verbal sparring, pushing propositions to their most absurd conclusions and doing so with a straight face – until he cracked a broad smile and you knew that he was just messing with your head.
I’m going to try to explain a little about Malcolm as a friend and as a brother. I’ve talked to his friends and searched through stories. I’ve tried to gather a few Malcomisms that we can remember him by. For example,
He would make little raps when the conversation lulled.
HHHHHe would sat “Gerb” or “Gerbil” a lot.
He would say “I got that cupcake wodie.”
He would say “Gobble Gobble” a lot.
He would quote Neverending Story a lot.
Most of all
Beyond the Malcolmisms, I’ve also tried to think of what Malcolm would want said here. What he would like us to walk away with.
First, learn how to fish. It brought him so much happiness, I’m sure we can find some in it too.
Second, Share what you know with kids. Brighten their days. Give them the courage to push forward, to weather the storms. Teach them to be responsible men and women. Most of all, listen to them – they will make you smile when you least expect it. Some people think Malcolm would’ve been a great father or uncle. Well, forget that – he WAS a great father for so many kids in so many ways.
Third, if you ever miss him or someone else – write them a letter. Just get it all down on paper. Then you can rest for a bit. It was one of the first things he ever told his friend Sean to do – and they’ve been friends ever since. Must have been good advice.
Fourth, listen to Johnny Cash, the Empire of the Sun soundtrack, and Tool. I think you’ll understand him a bit more that way.
Fifth, find the stupidity, the irony, and mostly the hilarity of life. If Malcolm was good at anything it was that. He could take a drab, dark, philosophical topic and cut it straight to the core. He could summarize the whole thing in one phrase – AND make it funny. You have to be of a certain brilliance to do what he did.
Finally, he would say “PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING.” He knew there was happiness in the world. He tried in so many ways to change his perspective, to find that happiness and to enjoy it. Call it the downside of brilliance or just bad body chemistry, whatever it was… he struggled for so long to find that happiness. We owe it to him to find it, to be joyful everyday.
Personally, I will miss waking up Christmas morning and talking about what was in our stockings. I will miss “Big Tackle” with dad. I will miss carpet soccer in the den. I will miss his music and his bass system – waking up the neighborhood. I will miss his insane humor and his unique perspective on life. I will miss my brother.
But if you ever want to hang out with him, you still can. Find a place – where the water meets the shore. He’ll be there, probably fishing, and willing to listen to everything you have to say. Like a good friend, like a good brother.
What more in these final moments can I say about my wonderful son who shared my name and who made me proud every day? These stories show us he was immensely caring, tender-hearted, generous, a loving son and brother, and a faithful friend to so many.
Malcolm had learned well the core lesson of Jesuit High School and of Jesus, to be a Man for Others. He was so much a man for others. Sadly, however, what he could so generously and happily give to others, he could not find a way to give to himself—love.
To Malcolm who now lies in his casket, I say again. I love you. Mom and James love you. God loves you. All of us love you. We wish you had found a way to love yourself as much as all of us here today love you.
I don’t want to end these moments with our words but with some of Malc’s. He was a very fine poet. I want to read a short poem he wrote about his happiest times—fishing with his uncles at Percy Quinn.
There were only four up at this hour,
me, Uncle Dave, Uncle Pete, and the sun
(and the sun was running late).
Waste deep and entwined in fly line
their ancient motor shove the rented skiff
to the far side, where the big ones roam,
or so the theory goes.
When the air got thick they turned back toward
Smoked bacon and cheese grits
with only jokes and grime to show
and we sipped chicory coffee black.
I laughed with Dad and his brothers about
ant piles, and stocks, and family,
while quietly we all thought about
the ones that get away.