It’s that time of year again, graduations at high schools, colleges and universities across the country and 3.6 million high school seniors walking across the stage and picking up diplomas. Have a brief look at this and the conclusions.
Greenville High School, Greenville, Ohio, Class of 1955 (Greenville is a town of some 12,000 people in western Ohio near the Indiana border. It was a great place to grow up, a fairly tight-knit and supportive community.)
148 graduates, 29 associates for a total of 177 classmates being tracked.
Near the end of April of this year, I asked our class scribe, Allen “Whitey” Hauberg, to give me the data on who and how many have left us since our high school graduation. One of the first deaths was the year after graduation in 1956 and there was then a hiatus until 1972. By the end of the 90’s, we had lost 17 more. And, by the time of our 50th reunion, in 2005, another 7 had gone for a total 25 graduates. We were all close to 68 years of age that year as if age has anything to do with still being alive.
Within the next five years, 2006-2010, the pace quickened and 9 more had died. Then what happened in the ensuing five years, 2011-2015, seemed hard to understand. Twice as many died in those next five years, adding another 18 to the total. Since our 60th reunion in 2015, in just three years, 13 more left us for a total of 52 graduates, 13 associates, and a grand total of 65 deceased, or 37% of the class. I do not know how these numbers compare with other classes and communities although there could be some interesting variables to explore further.
- Age has little to do with dying but health does.
- No one is a statistic but we all contribute to the facts, one way or another,
- Prevention is still the best-known medicine.
- Change is inevitable. Plan ahead when you can while you can.
- The experts hold up diet, exercise and being happy as keeping us in the game longer.
- We are social beings and interaction with others contributes to a positive mind set.
- Staying active physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and spiritually is a good strategy.
- As Yogi Berra said, “It is very hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”
- Love does help make our world go around, loving others and loving what we do.
- Every new day is a gift and it’s up to us to make the most of it and be grateful while we can.
Those of us from the Class of 1955 who are still here are now past 80 and in various states of mental and physical health, some in decline, some holding steady and some going full steam ahead, at least to a reasonable extent. There is no real accounting for the differences. Suffice to say here, at this time of year when some 3.6 million high school seniors are graduating, their futures could well have more question marks than ours did some 63 years ago. They will create their own statistics just as we did and are continuing to do. Our hope for them is that they will do more to make the world a safe, peaceful, healthy and loving place and do an even better job at that than we did.
As we pass the baton to the younger generation, our grandchildren, we do so with great affection and hope that their lives will be filled with meaning, purpose and passion. We trust that they will make their mark in choosing how they live, that they consider consciously what values they hold dear, and that they will find opportunities, or create them, that will help fulfill their dreams of what can be. We were taught and believed that there was value in hard work, good manners and mutual respect. If we can give this newest graduating class anything of lasting value it would be to believe in themselves and their capacity to contribute positively to their families, to their communities and to the world at large.