I have written in previous posts the high esteem I have always had for my older brother Berry Lee (Bubba). From my earliest remembrance he was my hero on many levels. He was an outstanding student throughout his academic years; he was an excellent athlete in football, even playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks; he had a sterling character; and best of all for me as a young man, he spent lots of time teaching me many sporting skills and talking to me about character. If I ever thought he had any faults, it was that he was too meticulous in all details, and he always insisted that I mind our parents without any questions.
After Bubba completed his internship year and then served 2 years on active duty in the Air Force, he and his wife LaNell decided to return to our hometown, where he would practice general medicine with our Pop. Most people including me thought Bubba would go into some type of academic medicine, because he was so brilliant throughout medical school graduating at the head of his class. As he worked hard to build a successful private practice, he also became involved in numerous civic projects. He was one of the more prominent members of the Republican Party in Union County, when it was very unpopular to be a Republican in Democratic South Arkansas. He led the fight locally to get Barry Goldwater elected President, but Goldwater was soundly defeated. Everything Bubba put his hand to he did with great zeal and fervor. Pop would occasionally ask him, “What are you crusading for these days?”
Bubba and Pop practiced medicine together for 8 years, while Pop’s health gradually deteriorated. Pop departed this life in January, 1966 and Bubba continued in a solo practice. Cathy and I had already moved to New Orleans where I was in training as a general surgeon, and we kept in touch with my Mom and Bubba, so we knew most of the important things which were occurring at home. What we had not heard; however, was that in mid-1967, Bubba experienced a spiritual conversion as a result of the witness of several friends, and his life was totally different.
It was perhaps several months following his conversion, which Cathy and I knew nothing about, I received a phone call from a prominent businessman in my hometown. I didn’t know this man very well and only knew him by his reputation as a respected man of the community. He said to me, “I’ve got some bad news to tell you about your brother.” My first thought was Bubba had been seriously injured or had died, but it would have been strange for this man to call me and not a member of the family. He said, “I believe your brother has gone off the deep end.” “What in the world are you talking about?” I said. He went on to say Berry Lee had “some type of religious experience,” and was at the hospital every day talking to his patients “about God, church and religious things!” To make matters worse, he is even praying out loud with his patients and is making an embarrassing scene for his patients and everyone else in the hospital.” By now, I am mad this man is accusing my hero of being an embarrassment, and I said to him in a firm voice, “Well, just what do you want me to do, have him committed to an insane asylum?” “No, he replied politely, I just wanted to make you aware of what was happening, so you perhaps could convince him to tone down.” “Thanks for the call and the information,” I said as I hung up.
This occurred during a time when it was very unusual for a physician to pray with patients and to witness Christ to them. I had never experienced anything similar in my training up to that point, so I wasn’t real sure the accusation of which that man had accused Bubba, was not true. Neither Cathy nor I were believers, so were not able to rejoice in Bubba’s love for the Lord Jesus and his bravery to withstand some of the silent and vocal accusations of going crazy.
It was almost 10 years to the day following this call in which both Cathy and I had a spiritual conversion and our lives changed as well. Since that day in 1977 I never heard anyone accuse me of being crazy until about 3 years ago just before Bubba died. We were laughing about the impact of that phone call back in 1967 and what many people thought and said about him in those days. He then paid me one of the greatest compliments I ever heard from him when he said, “As crazy as people thought I was in those days, you and Cathy became a lot crazier than I ever was!” As I hugged him good-bye I said, “Isn’t it wonderful to be crazy for Jesus?”