The following blog was written by Kelly Ross-Davis, Director of Education at The 1917 Clinic. Kelly and Malcolm have worked together for 14 of his 15 years at The 1917 Clinic.
The last week of your 15+ years at The 1917 Clinic is here. Of course, everyone at the 1917 Clinic wishes you the very best on your next journey down the street at the Hospital. We know that those who will have the opportunity to work with you in the future are fortunate more than they can know now. We know that hospital patients and community members will benefit from your compassionate approach and innovative solutions. We know all this because we have already received the gifts from you at the 1917 Clinic.
As the first AIDS Chaplain at a university hospital, you offered emotional support initially to people who were dying and then to people who were living. To widen the reach, you taught members of the faith community how to respond with love and compassion to people with HIV disease. During the 12 year history of volunteer Care/Support Teams, you probably taught (or trained others to teach) over 100,000 people how to deal with grief and loss. One method you used was to cut up little pieces of paper (16 to be exact) and to experience a very personal exercise of understanding loss.
You emphasized three main points.
1. “Help a person feel what they are feeling as they feel it. Ask an extra question for clarification of that feeling. Be quiet. Listen. Don’t try to fix.” How many times have you demonstrated this to me personally as I went through marriage, childbirth, divorce, parenting and professional challenges – you have been there through the joys and the hardships, nurturing without judging.
2. “Walk at the same pace emotionally as the person you are supporting. Resist the temptation to fix or speed up the process of change. Remember to walk beside not drag a person to a different place.” Malcolm, I can remember you having to live up to this test when your father was ill. He wanted to go out to eat and took forever to get from the car to the front door of the restaurant. Your father still had much to offer and stopped to talk with everyone and needed to move slowly on his path. Getting to the dinner table was not his only objective. Learning to see life from his perspective made you an even more caring son.
3. “Take on the role of student, and allow someone else to teach you.” We work with amazingly intelligent and insightful people at the 1917 Clinic, but the lessons learned from our Care Team Friends, Heartsong participants, and all the other patients of the clinic are deep. Lessons of struggle, endurance, acceptance, hope and love.
Malcolm, I remember the day I met you at an AIDS Volunteer Training event at Cathedral Church of the Advent. Within ten minutes, I said to myself, “I want to work with this man.” The first day I came to work as an AmeriCorps member you played a song (not on youtube but on a cassette tape) that Harry had written and performed. I cried that first day and am so thankful for all the tears and the laughter we have shared over the past 14 years.
Many training events later (and after some deep soul searching), you met and married the wonderful Mary Sullivan and gained two delightful stepchildren, Kiki and Brendan. Thankfully, you all opted to relocate from North Carolina to Alabama, and the clinic got to keep you too. More patients than ever before got connected to holistic medial care through you.
We all wish you the best. I encourage everyone to share any lessons Malcolm has taught you personally, other meaningful stories, or positive wishes for the future. We want his blog to be full and rich, along with his future.
1917 Clinic Colleague, Friend