The journey that is life always has an end point, at least in this part of the universe. When you are young, you do not think about the finish line, of course, even if you are reminded, as my own high school class was almost 52 years ago when a fellow senior developed a heart condition and quickly passed away. Though we have lost 18 people now, about 9 percent of our 1961 class, for most of us life still has remaining chapters.
That is up to God, maybe the individual too and perhaps fate. Since it is inevitable, it should not be feared. Only its coming, for that is where each of us faces a final exam. But, as we were all supported by one another in high school, so we are, too, as we age.
Over the years, our class learned of the dignified passing of at least some of my 18 classmates, and they set a standard for us all. One fellow, so very ill with a fatal genetic liver disease, came from Florida to my part of the Northeast to have a final lunch with some of us, never dwelling on his fate but trying to make us laugh, as we did in school. Another classmate called me to talk about almost nothing, but days later when he died, his words were everything. It was his way of saying goodbye.
Now, my class has lost another, Cliff Tallman, the former outstanding athlete and longtime Spring Valley, N.Y., police chief. His cancer was swift, and he chose to burden no one. His passage came at home with family, which is always a gift.
What Cliff left behind was a blessing, too.
He chose to long give back to the community where he was raised, an achievement that is often a sacrifice, for greener pastures are often beyond what seems so mundane to us. Cliff spent 30 years in law enforcement and rose to become police chief in his hometown.
He was a dignified, fair man who loved sports and in retirement continued to give as a coach to young people who were just like him in high school: eager, with lots of energy and potential.
Suburbia can be anonymous, but when you have people in the neighborhood like Cliff Tallman, the old downtown connection survives.
Thanks for giving to us in so many ways, Cliff. Thanks for the example.