Hundreds remember JDA’s #3, Mackenzie Webster
Mackenzie Webster's friends, family and classmates made it clear his memory would shine on.
Hundreds gathered July 24 on the Jefferson Davis Academy football field for a candlelight prayer vigil remembering the life of the 16-year-old rising JDA senior who died in a wreck.
"May we never forget this young man who gave his all, all the time, for 16 years," said Rev. Tom Baker, the Webster family's pastor at Elko Baptist Church.
"We have to hold on to those memories," said Rev. Bob Frederick, who encouraged everyone to use their God-given abilities to help others and "make the greatest impact on society. Choices define us."
According to those who knew him, Webster made many good choices.
"He knew what it meant to be a man," said one man during the vigil. "It was doing for others and putting yourself aside."
One student shared how Webster was there for him when he had a kidney stone. "He was a very good friend."
Webster's mother Karen said her son "got a lot done in his few years," including witnessing to those he met. "He didn't mind sharing his faith," she said, recalling how one of Mackenzie's friends told her Mackenzie discussed God with him on a recent fishing trip. Mackenzie told the friend he knew he was going to heaven, but asked the friend if he was certain of where he'd spend eternity.
"I could have never imagined how many lives he touched. You don't know what it means to see all these lights," said Kevin Webster, Mackenzie's father, of the candles that formed a circle around the field. He said the support shown to his family this past week, including more than 1,000 people coming to his son's visitation, means a lot.
"We've felt the love, the prayers and the peace they have prayed for," added Karen Webster.
Kevin Webster said they've also been comforted by the signs that show Mackenzie is looking over them, such as a rainbow the day of his funeral as well as a cloud that looked like the number three - his son's number on the football, baseball and basketball teams.
In addition to the people he impacted in his 16 years of life, Mackenzie also helped dozens of people in death as an organ donor.
"He's made life better in death for 40 different people," said his grandmother Jo Crider. "That's gives us a lot of comfort. I'm just so proud of him."
"We are so blessed to have a special child who helped so many lives," added his mother.
Rev. Ken Catoe, who pastors many JDA students at Hagood Avenue Baptist Church in Barnwell, said times like this can challenge one's faith, but can be a way of drawing people closer to him. He recalled how he tried bargaining with God after his father died when he was 14, but eventually started looking for God. "God has grace for all," said Catoe, adding how God can "make sense of the senseless."
Coach Bart Owens, JDA's basketball coach, challenged the athletes in the crowd to student athletes to dedicate this next season to Mackenzie and lead by example, just like Mackenzie did.
"Y'all make him proud," added Kevin Webster. "He made me proud."
At the end of the vigil, three Chinese lanterns were released into the air. As they rose higher and higher, those in the crowd raised three fingers in the air as a final salute to Mackenzie. The scoreboard was also illuminated in threes.
"Remember him with a light always," said Jane Hunter, one of the heads of school.
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