By: Tammy Andrews
Easter Sunday was everything you could have asked for weather-wise. The kind of day that was so beautiful, you just had to be outside doing something. The kind of day you look up and thank God for…
The Easter holiday is meant to be observed with family…but some people don’t have that option, so to them, this Easter weekend was a struggle. I would like to extend my sympathy to the Yates family for the tragic loss of one of their own, Patsy Yates Seale, on Saturday of Easter weekend.
Another family who needs your prayers are the Hendrix family, who lost their beloved son, Jason, to an aggressive form of leukemia just two months ago. Garry and Carol Hendrix have a very strong-willed family, but even the strongest of people struggle with the loss of a loved one. I know this because Jason’s mother, Carol, is a very good friend of mine, and even though she tries to put on a brave face every day, I can still see the pain in her eyes . You see, not only did she lose her youngest son, she also lost her traveling companion, her buddy, and her “wing-man”.
Jason Hendrix was just a special person to everyone who knew him. He touched the lives of so many and that connection was never lost, no matter how many years had passed without contact. He held an unconditional love for people that was nothing short of astounding. If he liked you, then you were his friend for life and he was fiercely loyal.
Just knowing Jason would change your entire outlook on life and make you appreciate the smaller things that many take for granted. He was like a breath of fresh air on a dark, stormy day and his enthusiasm for life was contagious. But let me start at the beginning…
Jason was the youngest of the Hendrix children and he was always very close to his siblings, Amanda and Matt. When he was very young, Carol began to notice that Jason wasn’t progressing at the same level as her other children, but tried to reassure herself that every child is different. She spent extra time trying to help him develop skills, but this was a slow process.
When Jason started school, teachers noticed that Jason seemed to be having a hard time with learning concepts. They tested Jason and deemed him to be educably mentally retarded with their results. This was a label Carol refused to accept because she knew different in her heart. So, from the
time he was a young boy, Carol encouraged Jason to do the best he could at whatever he was doing and that’s just what he did.
The defining years for Jason came when he entered Oxford High School and was embraced by his fellow classmates. And as a result of being accepted for who he was, Jason really came out of his shell and really began to blossom. His personality took on a whole new route; he was happy and smiling all the time. He felt such love for people that it was nothing unusual for him to grab you and just swoop you into his big bear hug. Hence, the name “Huggins” was given to him.
Everything Jason did, he pursued with such passion, that it inspired everyone around him. He found a great love for sports, most especially Alabama and Oxford High School football. Jason was never able to play sports in high school, but this didn’t stop him from being a part of it. He served as a manager for OHS, and upon graduating, he stayed with the Coaching Staff and was named an Honorary Coach. This was a position Jason took very seriously and it didn’t matter if you were his friend or not, he wasn’t going to let you slide with anything. So, if you made an error on the field, he was the first one to tell you about it. He was also the first one to go into the locker room for a pep talk before the game. In addition to football, Jason also coached the Girl’s Softball League with Oxford PARD and Upward Basketball at Grace Baptist Church.
Jason’s Uncle Bill Sprayberry, a retired U.S Air Force Chief Master Sgt had a profound effect on Jason’s life in a patriotic fashion. Every Memorial Day, Bill would take his nephew with him as he visited the final resting place of friends and family who had served in the military. Bill and Jason would say a few words at the headstone, place a flag, and then give a final salute. Because of his Uncle Bill’s tradition, Jason took on the heart of a true patriot, quite possibly one of best ones that ever walked the face of the Earth. It was a tradition that stuck with Jason long after his Uncle had moved away to Oklahoma. Each year, his list of Veterans to honor grew longer, and he paid for the flags out of his own pocket. Jason has distributed these flags to numerous cemeteries that cover four counties, but most of them in Clay County.
Jason was a faithful employee of Oxford Walmart for almost 20 years and he made lots of friends there. If he saw you while working, he would always smile and come give you one of his signature bear hugs he was famous for.
I could go on for days and days about what a beautiful person Jason was, but unfortunately I don’t have enough room. He was just one of the most genuine people you would ever meet and because of that, he was loved and respected by all.
Jason was diagnosed with Leukemia in October 2013 and despite his brave and most valiant efforts, his Earthly body was just not strong enough. He passed away on February 26, 2014 with his loving family by his side.
A Celebration of Jason’s life was held and the church was bursting at the seams with those who loved him the most. Because of his patriotic service of distributing flags to those who had served in the military, his coffin was draped with an American Flag. At the head of Jason’s casket, lay the shadow box with the folded flag enclosed of his maternal grandfather, John F. Sprayberry, who also served in the military. This flag was also laid to rest with him. The following letter was read by Jason’s Uncle Bill at the ceremony:
I would like to respectfully return the enclosed American Flag in hopes you might consider letting it go with Jason. We all know Jason never had an opportunity to serve and wear the military uniform; however, he is none the less a Patriot in every aspect. His countless hours of honoring our country, and those who served, by placing flags was his way of serving and offering remembrance.
As you know, this flag belonged to your father, mine and Jason’s Grandfather, a soldier and veteran, whom Jason loved and respected. It has been cleaned and pressed, and properly folded with respect and honor by two more family soldiers and veterans, myself and Caleb.
I hope this token is received in the way intended, with love and respect.
His favorite hymns were sang by his favorite group, Redemption Song and his Uncle Paul Sprayberry. Several spoke in his honor,
including his sister, Amanda, who gave a very courageous and touching eulogy that didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. It was a remarkable service that brought both laughter and tears as memories of Jason were lovingly shared.
Upon exiting, the Oxford Yellow jackets football team, who also served as Honorary Pallbearers, stood as an Honor Guard on both sides of the hallway as Jason’s casket was wheeled out and the crowd that followed. A Flag Folding ceremony was performed by his Uncle Bill and another US Air Force Chief Master Sgt Billy Evans at the burial site.
Jason’s life here on Earth was cut tragically short, but his time here with us was about as good as it gets. He was always surrounded by
family and friends, loved unconditionally, worked hard and played even harder. Jason may have had a learning disability, but it was not something that defined him, nor did it defeat him. He was respected, admired, loved, and even envied at times. The lives he touched are too many to count, and in the end that’s all that really matter…
Jason’s story should remind us that cancer does not discriminate. Relay for Life was close to Jason’s heart and each year, he purchased numerous luminarias in memory of loved ones who had lost their battle with cancer. The last year of his life, he lovingly gave his entire donation in memory of his dear friend, Carolyn Alderson Jackson, who he referred to as his sister. So get involved with Relay for Life because you never know how close to home it can hit, or whose life you might save…
Thursday, April 24, would have been Jason’s 42nd birthday. Please pray for the Hendrix family as they cope with this tremendous loss.