Tuesday, December 20, 2016

For Jamie Sexson, It's One Day At A Time

The public school is part of every community, large and small, all across the nation. The public school is a picture of our community and paints a history that will forever be etched in the lives of its citizens and alumni. Public schools bring communities together, and the relationship between a nine-year old boy fighting for his life and the 1988 Marshall Maverick football team will forever be etched in the history of Marshall High School and Marshall, Texas. Today's edition of The Red Brick Wall: Building A Legacy, takes a look back at the story of Jamie Sexson, who found his friends for life in the Maverick football team. The Mavericks, who reached out and became some of Jamie's closest friends, well, they found a new hero. This article appeared in the Dec. 8, 1988 edition of the Marshall News Messenger.

by Kim Weeks
News Messenger

The doctors said 9-year-old James Sexson should have already died, but Jamie's mother, Debbie, said members of the Maverick football team have helped give him some more time.

James, diagnosed as having leukemia at age 3, was "adopted" by the football team in October.

"I think him being adopted by the team gave him an extra time to live," Mrs. Sexson said. "It gave him something to look forward to."

James, affectionately called Jamie, had been in remission for a few months, but in August of this year, he got sick again and the doctors told Mrs. Sexson that there were no more treatments available.

"They told us to let him do what he wanted to do because they didn't expect him to live very long after that," she said.

Mrs. Sexson said they put Jamie back in school for about a month, but he had to be taken out after he got an infection.

"He hasn't been in school since October," she said. "He's had several bad days and several bouts where we've thought that was going to be it, and he's still alive."

Jamie was officially adopted during the pep rally before the Tyler game, and he went with the team to the game, practiced on the field with them and went out for the coin toss.

"He did everything the football team did," she said. "That night they took him out to eat with them and he got to go home on the bus. To him that was the grandest thing."

After that Jamie went to a few practices and games, until he couldn't go any more.

"The last game he went to was Tyler Lee. He went for a coin toss with the boys and he just got sick on the field. Brent Truelove brought him out and he started vomiting blood and it scared everybody."

Now, two or three nights a week, a few members of the team come over to see Jamie.

"Coach (Dennis) Parker told me that he never told the boys to come over. It was something they did on their own," she said.

Jamie, she said, was not the only person touched by his relationship with the team.

"Jamie has been used greatly (by God). There's just no telling how many lives he's touched since he's been sick. The football players will tell you, he's done a lot for them. Brent Truelove told me, 'you'll never know how much he's done for me,'" she said. "Coach Parker told me he's made them realize there's more to life than football, and life can be taken at any age."

Mrs. Sexson said Jamie rarely gets out of bed now.

"He sleeps most all day," she said. "But when the boys come in...he says, 'My team's here.'"

"They were real good about treating him as a normal kid," she said. "He wasn't a sick kid, he wasn't a cancer kid."

She said when the team came over after a game, the first thing Jamie said was, "You guys did real good. I'm proud of you."

"You can see these big old boys, I mean some of these guys are huge, they just tear up. They respect Jamie and that means a lot."

Mrs. Sexson said she has not worked in nine weeks, but stays home to to be with Jamie. She said they used to go for rides in the car and play games, but now they stay home and watch television together when Jamie isn't sleeping.

Mrs. Sexson said the doctors are not saying anything anymore.

"He's going to die. He knows he's going to die. We've talked about it and he understands. It's a waiting game. Some days he'll be down and we'll thing this is it, we're getting close. Then he'll get a burst of energy and he'll be up again. But for the last two weeks he's been pretty sick.

"We talk about dying. We've talked about going to heaven and not being afraid. What he's afraid of is leaving me. He knows it will be a better life. He knows he won't have the disease anymore. He's real brave."

She said Jamie helped her plan his funeral and his only special requests were that they play "Have You Been Washed In Blood" and that the football team be there.

"I worry about them (the team) after Jamie dies," she said. "I think they are going to take it real hard."

When the team comes over, they don't let Jamie dwell on death, Mrs. Sexson said.

"One day Odell (Beckham) talked about how they run all day and they were sore from practice. Jamie said, 'You know, I can't even walk to the bathroom and back without being tired.' They said, 'That's okay.' They are real good about keeping him going."

"I think accepting him the way he is has made a big difference in Jamie. He's kept going. I think he's lived his life to the fullest. He's done a lot of things that kids his age don't do. We take each day as it comes and we're thankful for that day. And when tomorrow comes, and we hope that it does, if it doesn't, we know he's had a good life."

*Note: Jamie lost his battle with cancer shortly after this article, but he won the hearts of his Maverick football friends, and the community they shared together. His story, along with his friendship with the Mavs, won national acclaim when East Texas broadcaster David Smoak further chronicled his final days and his relationship with his Maverick friends in "Jamie's Season," in 1988.