Friends and family of our lost loved one have continued to pour their heart out into thoughtful, loving words to satisfy their emotions and honor a life who left us far too soon. After the tragic event that occurred Wednesday, July 25, 2018, following the previous shocking death of senior Eli Borders.
Our small town of Lafayette, Tennessee is left in shock and heartache.
Tanner Jack Cleary fought a hard few months when he was born premature on December 11, 1998.
When Tanner was born, no one knew how long he would live, but in the words of his uncle, "the good Lord allowed us to borrow Tanner for 19-and-a-half years." Tanner lived a full life in his time here on Earth. Granted even after entering the world at only 2-and-a-half pounds, that strong boy managed to make it through his entire life with no health problems; he was more athletic and energetic than most people I know.
Tanner loved football, at a young age he began playing and he continued that love until his time was up. He was #4 on the field for as long as I can remember, and he wore that blue and white uniform proudly. He had this walk about him, and anyone who knew him knows exactly what I'm talking about.
You could look out onto a field of blue and pick Tanner out just by the way he walked. He held that head up so high, I swear sometimes I think he was looking straight into Heaven…and when he walked he took the longest strides as if he always had to be the first one to everything.
Now he didn't walk like this because he was cocky or wanted to be seen…he was confident...and he was ready to live every single day to the fullest. Tanner didn't do one thing in his life without thanking God. His love for the Lord shined brighter than all the stadium lights.
At age 8, Tanner Cleary was born again and accepted Jesus Christ into his heart. He received his precious golden ticket at eight years old and cashed it in to enter those pearly white gates eleven years later.
No matter how hard it is on this earth without our dear friend, it helps to know he's in a much better place right now than any of us are. Tanner left behind a testimony that is more precious than all the silver and gold in the world. He had a time and a place; for that, I am thankfully reassured I will see him again one day.
He was baptized and became a member at Eulia General Baptist Church…and the Sunday before he passed, he was led to join Millers Chapel. Family and friends of Tanner's were blessed to hear him proudly rejoice and tell his testimony one last time before he went to live with the Lord.
"Tan-Man" was truly a ray of Sunshine that lit up every room he walked in. He left his mark on this ole world for 19 short years, and everyone who had the chance of meeting him is sure to have nothing but kind words to say. Over the past few days, everyone who knew him has poured their heart out into heartfelt tributes…
But what has stood out to me the most is when our principal referred to him as The "Golden" Boy. You never saw that boy without the biggest smile on his face. He was always cracking jokes and trying to make you laugh.
He went out of his way to be a friend to each person he crossed paths with. He didn't care who you were or what your last name was, if you needed someone…he was that person any time of day. He made everybody feel like a somebody.
Our principal told us a story about Tanner and it left me even more thankful to have had the chance to know this amazing guy…he said "Tanner was one of the finest young men who ever walked the halls of MCHS.
His demeanor and personality were infectious. He was always volunteering his time and helping-out in any way he could. He'd pop into my office periodically just to say "Good morning Mr. West, I just wanted to stop by and say I hope you have a great day!"
He stopped by my office one particular day and sat down-just to ask me about how my dad was doing. You see...Tanner was always sincere about his feelings and thoughts of others.
I remember telling him a story of how my dad always looked at things positively as being God's Will and that every time he was asked how he was doing (even battling all the pain), he'd still always say "better than I deserve."
From that point forward... Every single day I'd see Tanner and ask him how he was doing, he'd say, "Better than I deserve, Mr. West, better than I deserve.' The "Golden" Boy will always be missed in Tiger Country."
Besides football, Tanner had another incredible talent. He loved to sing and play guitar.
Oh, and may I add, he could dance to Shakira like nobody's business. Friends of his have said when they were feeling down, Tanner would send them videos of himself singing their favorite songs to cheer them up. "I wish I could see the angels faces –– when they hear your sweet voice sing."
He was very active in school and outside of school, always participating in clubs or volunteering to help those in need. He was enrolled at Volunteer State Community College, pursuing his dream of becoming a nurse. It's no surprise that Tanner would choose a career where he could take care of people full time.
"Tan-Man", The "Golden" Boy, "Sunshine"….was truly One of a Kind. He loved his friends, family, and his niece was no doubt the center of his world. He talked about his family like they were his closest friends and made you feel like you had known them forever.
He never missed a chance to put a smile on your face, and he could make you forget about all your worries in the world. He gave his all to the Glory of God and shared a bond with his "brothers in blue" that can never be broken. He had a love about him that was contagious and made you want to be a better person.
Today, I beg you to let this tragedy be an opportunity to open your eyes and see the world a little more "Cleary."
And with every minute that passes keep in mind that death is no respecter of age, and any day could be your last.
The good Lord called Tanner Jack Cleary home on July 25, 2018 in a tragic car accident…while it appears to be a little cloudy down here on this ole earth right now, The "Golden" Boy is letting his light shine up in heaven and down onto us.
For those who are suffering and mourning the loss of such a sweet soul, be thankful to have 19 years worth of precious memories to hold onto every day until we meet him again.
The class of 2017 lost a classmate. The Macon County Tigers lost their pride. The Cleary family lost a loved one. But our King gained a child. Heaven gained an angel...and with spread wings, now he flies.