Honoring the Lion of BrookhavenPublished 12:00pm Sunday, October 6, 2013
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Nearly 30 years ago, in 1985, I had the privilege of getting to know Brookhaven’s Michael Case. Michael was a pledge in the Delta Chi Fraternity at Mississippi State at the same time I was the brother responsible for preparing pledges for full membership at semester’s end.
Michael was a special guy, having had multiple heart surgeries in his youth. He was very thin, and his color had a slight blueness given the inefficiency of his heart and the effects of severe medication. He tired quickly, but worked hard to avoid showing it. A common cold was hard on Michael, but he never complained. He never missed a work assignment. He never shied away from any event, any task, any challenge. His spirit was indefatigable. His resolve was iron.
When it came time for initiation, I was worried about Michael’s suspect heart as initiation week neared. There were all sorts of rumors about hazing in those days, and I grew concerned that Michael might be unduly concerned.
On the first night of initiation week, I took Michael aside and told him not to worry, that I would not let anything happen to him, and I would take care of him. I was 6’2″ and 210 as a young man, and Michael probably weighed 120 pounds soaking wet.
He drew up close to me, looked me in the eye, and said, “I’ve spit in Death’s eye my whole life, and there is nothing you boys can dish out that I can’t take. Don’t you hold back a bit.” At that moment, my brother Michael Case was a giant. All these years later I can still see the steely look in his eyes.
Michael died a few years after graduation, having lived life to the fullest despite his condition. We Delta Chi’s who were privileged to serve with Michael Case remembered his sense of humor, his courage, and his delight in life. When my wife and I had a terminally ill child of our own, I remembered Michael’s words spoken years earlier during one of our many late night chats. He said life was full of choices, and you could choose to be weak or choose to be strong. God didn’t make us weak or strong, he gave us the opportunity to choose weakness or strength. His example was powerful for me, and I never forgot it. Neither did my fraternity brothers.
This weekend, we are dedicating our new fraternity house at MSU. Hundreds of alumni will return for the celebration and ribbon-cutting. Many alumni are sponsoring rooms in the house. One of those sponsors is Dr. Roger Clapp of Starkville. He chose to name his room in honor of Brother Michael Case. Like the rest of us, he knew strength when he saw it. And Michael Case was a lion.
Through the decades we lost our records of original home addresses, so we don’t know where to find Michael’s family. We would like to tell them about his being honored in our house. We don’t know where to find them.
If you know where to find the family of my brother, Michael Case, the Lion of Brookhaven, please let me know. Thanks to The Daily Leader for allowing this addition to their pages.
John Hairston is the CEO of Hancock Bank in Gulfport. He can be reached at John.firstname.lastname@example.org.