Henson laid to rest
'He loomed large from day one'
by CHRIS GOLTERMANN
From its shape in an arrangement of red flowers to the Bible verse from Romans 8:38 displayed on a screen at First Baptist Church of Newnan, it was hard not to find a link between Tyler Henson and the No. 8 jersey he wore playing football for The Heritage School.
The descriptions of Henson’s life offered by those who spoke at his funeral service Tuesday symbolically turned that number sideways – in the numeric symbol known for infinity.
Simply put, Henson’s “gifts” to his community were seemingly endless.
“Some gifts hurt, but they’re worth having. Tyler Henson’s gift was worth having. We’re grieving now because Tyler is no longer part of our present. We’re trying to keep him in our present, that’s why all the blue is being worn, the No. 8 on lapels and on hands and carved into the fields at school, I hear,” said Henson’s pastor, Dr. John Riley of Macedonia Baptist.
“Let me tell you, those things will all pass. The grass will grow back and the ribbons will go in a special place. But if you really want to keep him in your present, keep him close in your heart.”
Henson, 17, was laid to rest following a memorial service Tuesday, three days after being killed in a single-vehicle accident. An overflow crowd from Monday’s viewing continued at First Baptist, where there wasn’t a vacant seat more than 30 minutes prior.
“This large crowd speaks such a large message, such an important message about Tyler Henson. Thank you so much,” said Rev. Searcy Jackson, speaking for the family.
It included parents Dean and Amy and younger siblings Peyton, Rebekah and Rachel. The service included devoted words written by Amy and an equally-moving speech by Tyler’s uncle, Bart, who channeled his nephew’s love and respect toward his family.
“He loved you. He respected you,” said Bart to the Hensons before turning to Tyler’s siblings. “The three of you were his pride and joy.”
Jackson’s words echoed those found on the wall in the Henson family den along with photos of their four children. “We live, we laugh, we play and we love,” he said.
The experiences of the 2012-13 school year were much to those belonging to a senior, not a junior like Tyler, having shared friendships with so many that will graduate this week. It included a trip to a state football championship, both state basketball and baseball playoffs, as well as this year’s GISA state track meet. The school year also included “a senior trip,” two proms and spring football practice.
“Tyler was well on his way of learning how to live a life of quality. Quality is more important than quantity,” Jackson added. “Tyler probably lived more in his 17 years than more people have in a lifetime.”
Even on day one, as Riley noted, Tyler made his mark. His mother Amy told their pastor that the doctor’s first words upon delivering the boy was, “WOW!”
The words of Amy Henson, spoken by a close family friend, also described a loving boy and how on Mother’s Day, her 6-3, 215-pound son had hugged her tight, enough to make Amy say he hugged like a “man.”
“He answered, ‘I am, momma.”
Those gathered Tuesday also included friends — many of whom had been fellow students and teammates at Heritage that had shared classrooms and the field of play. Tyler was an All-County, All-Region and All-State football standout at tight end and defensive end, but was equally well-rounded as a Hawks basketball and baseball player in addition to competing in track and field.
“Tyler made an impression from the day he was born. He loomed large from day one,” said Riley. “His energy unbounded, his potential unlimited. He approached life as a game to be played, a game to be loved.”
In addition to his athletic talents, he was continually described as playful and energetic, as humorous as he was loving.
A poem, written recently by Tyler, was shared, including the line “I’ll love you till my last breath.”
Hawks head football coach Kevin Prisant read from a list compiled from teachers’ and students’ descriptions of Tyler using terms like “lived life to the fullest,” “biggest heart on campus,” and “an eating machine,” the last description eliciting laughter at Tuesday’s service.
“He once put odds on a cage match between [Heritage head basketball coach] Rusty Evans and [Heritage athletic director] Ron Rineer,” said Prisant.
Prisant also remarked about Tyler’s passions, not just about sports, but his school.
“Everybody I spoke to said he had a passion. A passion for this, a passion for that. They said his passion for Heritage was not because he was the best student, but for his joy and time in the classroom,” he said.
Rarely, if ever, did Tyler stop to sit down.
Riley remembered one such occasion, when Tyler approached his pastor about accepting Jesus as his Savior when he was 9 years old.
“I knew he was serious because he was sitting still,” Riley said. “He knew exactly what he was doing.”