A battle that was bigger than any game

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In this section, we talk about touchdowns and home runs, rebounds and holes-in-one – in short, we talk wins and losses.

Today, we’re going to talk about the ultimate battle, one waged not on any football field, baseball diamond, golf course or tennis court, but in a hospital.

And in the heart.

Jay Cox’s family had been fighting that battle since Jay was critically injured in a car accident back on April 29. It was a battle that – in that hospital room in Dallas, at least – could have no winners, and while the Kilgore community wasn’t there en masse in the hospital room, we were all there in spirit, and with prayer.

Jay died on Saturday as a result of complications from his injuries. He had been in Children’s Hospital in Dallas, surrounded by family, and by love.

It’s important to note right here that I didn’t know Jay all that well, though in 15 years here in Kilgore, and 23 years of sportswriting, this was one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever written.

I know what many of you know: that he was 16, a sophomore in last school year here at Kilgore High School. He dabbled in sports; he loved the outdoors, and from what I’ve seen and been told, he especially loved to fish.

I knew Jay through my son, Jacob, who’s a grade in front of Jay, but the same age. So Jay and I had a couple of conversations, and that’s it.

But I feel like I know Jay well because of everything I’ve read and been told by Jacob, and by just about everyone else here in Kilgore, in the last couple of months. Jay had a fantastic sense of humor. He loved his friends and his family. He was an active member of the youth at First Christian Church here in Kilgore.

Jay didn’t just live in Kilgore. Jay IS Kilgore. He’s ours. Through and through. And the last few months, this community embraced Jay and his family on Facebook, and most importantly, in prayer, as he struggled to make it, and as his parents and close family – mom Rachel Rowe and dad Jeremy Cox, as well as stepdad John Rowe and stepmom Jerica, sister Abbie Cox, brother Aaron Rowe – struggled in looking on, and obviously, dealing with it in their hearts.

There’s nothing any of us really can say to make the family feel better right now. There’s a void in their lives, and a precious young man that’s no longer here.

Thirty years ago this summer, I lost my grandfather, my mom’s dad, Carl Webster. It was a blow because he hadn’t been sick at all. Two years later, I lost my paternal grandfather, Floyd Lucas, after a lengthy battle with cancer, the complete opposite situation.

Since then, I’ve lost countless friends and family, including my dad, back in 2010, and both my grandmothers.

Losing family, losing people, is something no one can ever get used to dealing with. Every case is different, just as many different ways of dealing with it as there are people.

As a Christian, though, I want to – I have to – look at things from a much bigger picture. While I was praying day and night for Jay to pull through, to sit up and hug his family and talk with them, God decided he needed Jay to come on home.

So in the end, in spite of prayers, in spite of the well-wishes, in spite of the tears, in spite of everything, Jay did go home. And you know what? Thinking about what I said early in this column, I was wrong.

There was a winner in this battle. It was Jay. And his family, his friends? They were winners, too, by knowing him.

In one of the posts I made on Facebook during the family’s ordeal, I urged them to keep in mind Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Jay is not fighting a battle anymore. He doesn’t need that hospital bed. He doesn’t need a machine to help him breathe.

Jay is fishing with Better Company now. And that’s the greatest victory of all.

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