“My Last Column of 2015,” Dec. 22, 2015

How do you say goodbye to a friend you’ve never met?

Twenty-five years ago, when my editor called me into his office, I knew I was in trouble.

“Sorry I left early yesterday,” I said. “I’ll never do it again. After today. I have to sell hot dogs at my son’s baseball game.”

He rolled his eyes. “I want you to start writing a column.”

“About what?”

“Life,” he said.

I was a newspaper reporter, the wife of a basketball coach, mother of three too-smart-for-their-own-good kids, a Sunday school teacher, Little League scorer and PTA volunteer. My life kept me hopping faster than a barefoot drunk who mistook a briar patch for an outhouse. But who on Earth would want to read about it?

My grandmother used to say, “Never pretend to be what you aren’t or to know what you don’t know. People forgive ignorance, but they never forget a phony.”

So I agreed to write about life as I knew it, whatever might come along, the everyday, ordinary matters of the heart. Thus began a dream job I never dreamed would be mine, writing “letters” to strangers who would somehow become not just readers, but friends.

I’m hoping you are one them.

Three years later the column was syndicated to papers around the country and mail increased astronomically. But wherever it came from, people sounded much the same.

No matter what I wrote about _ my kids, my blind brother, my husband’s basketball team, my big Southern family or people who cornered me in public restrooms to tell me their life histories _ I would hear back from countless readers who’d tell me a similar story and say they knew how I felt and that they felt the same way, too.

I never wanted to write about cancer. After my husband was diagnosed, I tried to write about other things. Anything. But cancer kept getting in the way.

Soon people near and far were writing to say that we were not alone. They or their loved ones were battling cancer, too. They said they’d added my husband’s name to their church’s prayer list, and their children were praying for our children.

I liked those people a lot.

I didn’t want to write about losing my husband, or being a widow or figuring out who I was when I was no longer who I’d been. But I wrote about all that.

I never planned years later to write about falling in love again, getting married, moving to Las Vegas, or having grandchildren. But those things came along, too. Life is full of surprises.

Writing columns and hearing from readers has taught me all sorts of things. Here are a few:

First, in the everyday, ordinary matters of the heart, we are all more alike than different.

Second, writing about life is not so different from living it; if you stay alive and pay attention, things will keep coming along.

Third, and most important, we need to say what’s on our heart while there’s time to say it. Is there someone you need to thank? Or forgive? Or ask for forgiveness? Do it now. Don’t wait. Wipe the slate clean and start the new year fresh.

For 25 years, it’s been my job and my joy to write columns and hear from readers. I want to assure you, as of this writing, I am not sick, dying or retiring.

However, the syndication is changing. That doesn’t mean I can’t keep writing the column and posting it on this website. I can do that, if I so choose, until the cows come home. But it does mean that if I decide to continue writing the column, I’ll need to find a new way to get it to your newspaper.

I wanted you to hear that from me.

In my last column of 2015, I especially want to say this:

Thank you for your friendship and encouragement; for your prayers and kind words; for your honesty and trust in telling me your stories; for making speaking engagements feel like family reunions without the fist fights; and most of all, for reading my words, hearing my heart and writing to tell me that my stories are your stories, too.

You have been such a gift.

Comments

  1. Joanne Carey says:

    I went looking for your column today, paraphrased as, “Family Shows Up”, and was appalled to see how many Sharon Randall obituaries before I found your website.

    The newspaper business is changing, and I don’t think it’s a good thing to not have a reliable model to replace it for communication of important events, and everyday happening and thoughts.

    I am a frustrated librarian, a former Barnes and Noble Bookseller, and someone whose eyes have begun to fail me as I’m aging. So often now, I’m on audible.com to get my favorite stories. I also see that they are now adding “channels” for podcast-like audio segments. Not sure if that’s a lead for where you may end up in the future, but I’ll hope to catch up with you as you have new thoughts to share.

  2. Diane Hogan Fairmont Wv says:

    I’m so sorry you to hear you no longer write for the Fairmont Times. I have enjoyed reading your article for many years. They made me laugh made me cry.No matter what you wrote I could relate. I felt I knew you and your family. Thoughts and prayers in what ever you do.

  3. Teresa Brown says:

    So glad to be able to read your column once again. I have missed it very much. It was always part on my morning ritual.

  4. Loretta Romp says:

    This is not the first time I have contacted you, and hopefully not the last. My weekend has not felt complete since your column stopped being published in the Naples Daily News. I am hoping it will reappear, and keep checking. Please post somewhere the title of your novel. That is something I’m sure I don’t want to miss, but I do miss you, my friend. I have cut out several of your columns and put them in a book that my family will read when I am no longer here. They will know some of my thoughts as they have been echoed through your words.

  5. Jan says:

    Hey Sharon,

    My mom and I read your column all the time.
    You are a part of our family! So we wrote a nice
    letter to our editor at the Abilene Reporter News
    and he said they had been swamped with letters—
    some not so nice saying they wanted your column
    back.

    So today, on my Dad’s birthday, you returned!
    Woo Hoo! We are extremely happy.

    You said to say what’s on your heart, so here goes…
    I’m an elementary teacher so I enjoy hearing about your
    kids who are teachers , your grandkids, your childhood and
    your family. Your words
    have made me laugh, cry, think, and act.

    I admire your courage, goodness, sense of humor, and
    your writing ability. Thanks for being a part of our
    family!

    Love and Best Wishes to You and Your Family,
    Grace and Jan

  6. Shirley Southwiick says:

    I noticed you column was not in that past two Sunday’s paper. So I decided to check out your web site. I am 80 years old as of May 2015. I looked up and said, “God, how awesome is this.” I have enjoyed you column for many years. Shirley

  7. When I saw your last column of 2015 I was shocked. I thought how could my Record Searchlight paper drop your column? Our area economy is struggling like other small areas and our paper is half the size it used to be. I assumed they could not afford the price anymore. I called in and complained. I imagine others did too. Last week my paper started running a QUARTER PAGE AD that told us your column was coming back on February 7th. Now I can see that perhaps you found a way to send your column by yourself. Thank you. I am one of many thousands of your readers who look forward each week to your column.

  8. Margie Kowalski says:

    As so many people have written above I too miss your column. It was one of the first items I looked for every Monday in The Gettysburg Times. I cut out and shared many of them with family and friends. Glad I remembered to check out this website.

  9. polly says:

    Mondays just aren’t the same without your column in our paper! I miss them and always looked forward to them. They always made me smile! Thank you for always making my Mondays special!

  10. Vivian says:

    I miss your column in the Times Daily in Florence, AL. I always looked forward to what you were going to write about in the Sunday paper..now it’s gone!!!! I hope you come back and SOON!!!

  11. Shashi says:

    we are counting days to read your next column . I am very
    positive that you also have written so much in your mind to print here .
    It is so hard to believe that a profit oriented business world could not appreciate beauty of words lost in ocean for complete one month.But a writer like Sharon knows how to recover them,weave them into diamonds ,print them with her hands and no body can stop her ,not even a single newspaper ,God bless them for last 25 years they delivered so much happiness to each house and its residents to give back to Sharon after they read her column .Sorry I am not very good in English writing but I could read every column and it inspired me in every way to be a good human being and enjoy each day no matter what ? love to you Sharon and we wish you all the best in your next journey of writing .Shashi and Bhupinder

  12. C Ritchie says:

    Your column is the first thing I look for in our weekend newspaper here in Nebraska. You always entertain or enlighten me. I think every one of your columns have spoke to me somehow. I love your “from the heart” writing style. I hope that I will be reading your column again sometime soon. God bless you for all you have touched. You are that far away friend to many.

  13. Kay Nailen says:

    What can I say that others haven’t already said – we need and want to read you somewhere/some how!
    I might just cancel my subscription to Dothan Eagle. I was so looking forward to hearing about Joe listening to the Clemson Alabama game. Roll Tide; there were some Alabama people who were secretly pulling for Clemson!

    Missing my newspaper friend that I want to invite to my house for coffee –

  14. Dal Ogle says:

    I have written a post at http://www.dalogle.com about Sharon’s departure from our local paper, the Times Daily. I will miss her

  15. Pat Burneson says:

    Another Sunday missing you and your uplifting cheerful thoughts. Hurry back to all your unknown friends here in Naples, Florida!

  16. Carol Rumple says:

    Please continue to write. The highlight of my Sunday paper was your column! And when you visited Indiana, I made sure to attend your programs. Today is a sad Sunday– the Columbus Republic does not contain your column. I miss you!

  17. Billie says:

    Like everyone I too miss your column so much…..I have looked forward to reading your weekly column’s for close to 30 years….I have always felt a kindred bond with you….Maybe because we are the same age, both have 3 children(2 boys 1 girl), moved to California when I married and my husband passed away 14 years ago. Unfortunately I’ve never found another love to marry, but I’ve had a good life with grandchildren to keep me happy…I have had the pleasure of seeing you two times when you have spoke in Redding, CA. And I so enjoyed meeting you….I so miss your columns and I’m praying for your quick return to the printed page….

    ou for 30 years

  18. Shashi says:

    As I see your website without a new page to read ,I am lost like you are somewhere hiding and I am finding you . There are so many other writers and columnists but nobody could satisfy my soul as you did .I do not know what magic was there in those columns that I got stuck with them; like I have lost something precious .They are so simple,even written a while ago but full of wisdom and love like you wrote them yesterday .I am sure you would find another way out ,love you always !!we are praying for you to come back .

  19. Iris Wiggins says:

    We can’t say good-by to someone who inspires us each week by living life realistically and then writes about it. You are sunshine and rain, heat and cold, dreams and reality and missing your writings is now a sad part of my life. Please, please find a way to share with we who depend on you to give us a peek into the reality of life rather than fiction. Thank you. Lovingly longing for more.

  20. Sharon,
    Imagine my surprise this morning when I turned to the Opinion Page of the Winston Salem Journal! Last week I couldn’t bear to even go there! There in the large letters was written”Sharon’s almost back!” John Railey, the editorial page editor, seems to be as anxious as we are! We, the moms, grands, aunts, cousins, and friends, that you have nourished and added to your family over the years! I wish you could see us, waiting to toast our morning coffee or mimosas to your Saturday morning visit!Thank you for the wisdom, laughter, tears, gratitude and thanksgiving that you have added to our week, and the inspiration for the next one!
    Like all great family, we can’t wait to see you again!

  21. Judy Chandler says:

    Hi Sharon, Every Thursday I would turn to your column in the Independence Examiner and read it several times and think about what you wrote about that day. I always wanted to email you and tell you that but I waited too long! I really hope you will find a way to continue writing if that is what you want to do. I will keep checking the paper and hope I will see you there soon. Thanks

  22. Richard King- Anderson SC says:

    Sharon,
    My wife Genny and I just got back from Phoenix watching Clemson and Alabama play football.
    We flew into and out of Las Vegas and drove to Phoenix. We looked over the hills in Las Vegas and both said Sharon lives somewhere out there.
    I was so looking forward to you writing about Joe. I know he listened to and pulled hard for his Tigers!
    Please get back on the newspaper airways! We miss you.

  23. Dorothy Gates says:

    Will miss you Sharon Randall! I don’t know what is going on with this syndication thing but I don’t like it!! I wasn’t asked my oppinion but there it is. Because of your sweet column I know you will be alright. You have a wonderful family that will love you through this. But I for one will miss hearing about it. Hopefully things will get worked out so you can continue sharing your gift of writing with all of us. In the meantime I will miss reading about life in only the way you have of telling it. Thank you for sharing and keep being grateful for all you’ve been given. I have a feeling things will work out.

  24. Laura Kelley says:

    Now I will just sleep in on Saturday morning because there’s no reason to jump out of bed to get the newspaper and read your column! I am cheering for the self-syndication efforts from here in North Carolina. Good luck!
    I am also cheering for the Clemson Tigers tonight in their battle for a national championship and thinking of your brother. Is he beside himself with excitement?! Go Tigers!

  25. Cynthia Ogrey says:

    What happens when the Future becomes the NOW of life. “My last column of 2015” doesn’t mean like the LAST column. But after two Sundays looking for you; I guess it is. We have meet. I was the “just old enough” lady in the black, slightly (well actually really) stretched out pants in line to get your book autographed in The Cascade Theater in Redding, CA. Of all places.

    I followed your life when you were in Monterey and I was across the bay in Aptos. We (second husband & I) moved to Redding. Then you & second husband moved to Nevada. I did not write all the notes I meant to or send the condolences, congratulations, or birthday cake. But you and yours were and are in our prayers. “Sometimes mothers just need to pray for themselves.” But sometimes when you can not pray it is so wonderful that others will pray for you. I am told the written word is changing, life is changing, the world is changing and my computer is always too old to keep up. Well I still use a Roladex and I will keep your address in it. Do a You Tube what-cha-ma-callit. Everyone tells me I can learn anything I want on You Tube. Will you teach on Kindness, Ethics, Morality, Grieve and loss, parenting, G-Ma-ing, animal husband-nearing, marriage counseling and anything else that floats your boat. My email address is included so “do a link” I think that is what it is called and keep me in the family address book. Love you…

    I am now going to write to the Redding, (CA) Record- Searchlight which I understand has been purchased by USA Today and we know what kind of stories they make up. I only pay subscription to the local paper by the month because I believe they will stop printing the paper and go to an “E-form” What about doing a column in a monthly magazine like Women’s World? Not the same as weekly but SOMETHING.

  26. Kathy Russell says:

    Hi Sharon,

    How can you feel so close to a person when you’ve never even met them? I know how… it is because of the way you have opened up and shared so much of your life with us, and you have such a way with words. I have read you for many years now, and my husband even got your book and had it autographed by you as a total surprise for me one year because he knew how much I enjoyed your column. If ever I didn’t have time to read the paper, it was understood to save that part of the paper with your column, before the rest of the paper got tossed, so I could read it later. I have been so very disappointed the past two weeks since your column has not been in the paper !! You’re going to have a lot of catching up to do !! My husband passed away very unexpectedly last year, and when I finally came out of the fog, and started looking for strength, I thought back about a lot of what you wrote about when your first husband passed away. I have drawn some strength from that. I think you probably have no idea what your writing has done for many people. I look very forward to reading you again soon !!

  27. Neva says:

    Miss you, my soul sister

  28. Terri Hileman says:

    I wish there was an anthology of your columns. I would buy it just to have the columns that you wrote before I discovered you. I have never enjoyed reading anyone more. You have a unique way of writing that at one time or another is going to identify with every single person who reads you. Please keep writing. I am in the process of sending a very nasty letter to the editor of the Muncie, Indiana Star Press. You were always in the paper every Wednesday morning, then this past week———nothing. They need to figure something out.

  29. Jeannette Buck says:

    Please keep writing — on here if no other place. You give us all such a gift with the way you weave your words together into our thoughts. Thank you.

  30. Debby says:

    I’ve written to you so often when your words mirrored events in my life, but there were so many more times that I didn’t write because I just didn’t want to be a pest. For years, you’ve been my best far-away sister-friend-confidant-advisor. Your columns have been so insightful & heartfelt, I think we all feel that you’re a part of our families. Its unimaginable that you won’t be sharing your thoughts with us any more, so we really need for you to pull up your bootstraps & hop to it! I told you a good while back that you’re better than a great gin & tonic – I hope you remember. Let’s all pull for Clemson – & your awesome brother – & your own awesome self. My email address has changed but my admiration & gratitude for your being who you are has not.

  31. Cindy Mitchell says:

    Sharon, I will miss your column. Every Thursday I looked forward to reading what you have written. Sometimes I cried , other times, smiled. Many times I felt like saying, how did you know what I was feeling in my heart! I have cut out many of your columns to read over, mostly about children and grandchildren. I am a new grandma myself. I sincerely hope that somehow you can keep writing for publication and I will be able to read your columns. Thursday’s Finger Lakes Times won’t be the same without you.

  32. Ba says:

    From another friend you’ve never met.
    You’ve had a good 2 weeks now to hang out and enjoy life and all that. It’s time to get back to writing, at least a bi-weekly blog entry. Anything less will be considered lazy and very selfish! We miss you terribly!
    Much Love from a close stranger!

  33. Marilyn Logan says:

    Arkansas misses you! You were the bright spot in my Wednesdays and the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette just isn’t the same. I pray for blessings for you and everyone you hold dear. Thank you for the times you’ve brought smiles and/or tears and for your stories that took me down Memory Lane. Your gift for sharing the ordinary and the extraordinary is truly God-given. Wishing you God’s best.

    Marilyn

  34. Trisha Madia says:

    Trisha Madia
    I just picked up the Finger Lakes Times, (Geneva NY) at work “How to say Goodbye to a friend you never met”. I cried! If someone asks why, they will think I’m a bit over board, well they have no idea how connected I feel when I read your column. I feel you’re my friend and I can picture your whole family, how you live and what you’ve been through. I don’t get that connection when I read anyone else’s books or columns. I have cut out articles over the past 20 years, made an album so I can read them on a rainy day and reflect on my life and yours. Wish you could see it!
    Your Dedicated Friend you never met
    With Love & Peace Trisha Madia
    Your welcome to come to The Finger Lakes anytime 🙂

    • Jean Poormon says:

      You are definitely one of the reasons I take The Finger Lakes Times in Geneva NY and when I read that you will no longer have a column I thought seriously about canceling the paper.
      I truly miss your column not being in the paper last Thursday and today.
      I hope you can find a way to come back to us and brighten our days once a week. You are amazing.

      • Darlene says:

        Jean, I thought about canceling my subscription to the Reading Eagle newspaper in PA, also (and I still might). Reading Sharon’s column was one of the highlights of my week. I got such a sinking feeling in my stomach when I read the headline of her last column and was greatly saddened to read that it would be her last. Please, Sharon, find a way to write and reach us on a regular basis.

  35. Cheryl J says:

    And you have been a gift! I so loved your columns, they resonated with me, making me both laugh and cry. Godspeed in your new endeavors, I hope it includes a format that allows reading your thoughts again?

  36. JoAnn Snyder says:

    I was saddened and surprised to read that your column was no longer to be in our paper. It is the first thing I read every Sunday. You have such a wonderful gift, and I am so happy that you have shared it with us. I hope to be able to read your amazing stories somewhere in the future, but for now will have to reread your book that I have enjoyed so much over the years.
    God Bless you and your family and enjoy every minute with your precious grandchildren.

  37. Duane Miller says:

    When I read your last column I mistakenly read it as “possibly being your last”, but not even for a second considered it to be true. Until Monday morning when you weren’t there. Then yesterday morning the explanation in the bottom right corner of page 3 left me feeling such a great feeling of loss I was moved to write my first response to a column ever. Sharon, you and your family have been a part of my Monday mornings for longer then I care to remember and will be greatly missed. At least let us know what your brothers response is when Clemson wins the big game next Monday! 🙂

  38. Kate Sciacca says:

    This week’s column would have been all about your phone conversation with your brother after Clemson clinched a spot in the National championship game… You would have tied it to something about life’s surprises… And your brother’s certain belief that his beloved team WILL WIN the title…. “Sis, it is going to be a great game! Close, but we will WIN!” It would have been a great column… ?

  39. Rebecca Hilliard says:

    I was on vacation and missed your last column. So when I opened my paper yesterday and you weren’t there on the second page, I searched the rest of the paper looking for your column. I couldn’t find it. In today’s paper I saw “Where is Sharon Randall?” and found the answer. It made me sad because reading your letter on Mondays made the week start off right.
    It was always inspiring and thought provoking. Please continue to write and share your stories. I especially want to hear what your brother has to say when Clemson wins the National Championship next week! Go Tigers!!

  40. Linda Myers says:

    Dear Sharon, I was so upset to read that your columns may no longer be in our local newspaper. I anxiously awaited the Monday paper just to read your writings. Well when the paper came yesterday,there was no Sharon Randall column. I am so disappointed but hope you will continue to post writings on your web page. I always love hearing your stories about your brother; I admired him so much. I sure hope you will continue to write and share your life with your “reader friends.”
    Thanks for sharing your life with us. Linda Myers

  41. Shashi says:

    I never miss to read your column and today is not a day I could
    miss either but finding comments in fovor of your missing column gives me hope that it would come soon somewhere and some day in the form of a book of columns of this year like your first book which I read in two days after I purchased it .Please do not get discouraged if they discontinued it .
    such a brilliant writer as you are would find solution to the problem .
    All the best wishes to you . God keeps you motivated to write in near future all what you want .lot of love .waiting to hear from you .A sincere reader .

  42. Jill Deahl says:

    I always looked forward to reading your column in the Sunday edition of the Evansville Courier and Press. How sad it was to discover I was reading your last column. You have been an inspiration to someone here in Kentucky. You made me think about my life and how fortunate I am. I will miss you in the paper. I wish you the best of life and thank you for letting me a part of your life on Sunday mornings.

  43. Janet Berkey says:

    Dear Sharon, my husband & I looked forward to reading your column every week. We already sent our regrets of losing your column to the editor of our newspaper. I have to tell you that I was so inspired by your thoughts on Thanksgiving this year that I read it aloud to our family, including 3 grandchildren ages 8,9, & 13 before we ate our dinner. They were all very attentive and even my children said “thank-you, Mom, that was good” when I had finished. As one of your devoted readers, I thank you for sharing your life journey through good times & difficult times. We’ve all been there in one way or another, but reading your thoughts were so helpful.
    Bless you! and may you never lose your passion for writing & sharing – Janet Berkey

  44. Dennise Shinn says:

    Not having your weekly column is like not having chocolate!! I could always count on your column to touch my heart, bring a tear, elicit a laugh and make my day start off on the right note! I’ve shared your column with friends who became loyal readers. Is your old syndicate CRAZY! Do they not realize what a treasure you are? If we, your readers, have been your gift try to imagine what you have been to us. I can’t find adequate words to tell you..

  45. Elaine Middelstaedt says:

    Sharon,
    You have been the best part of the Sunday paper for many years. I have read you column in the Naples Daily News, and was shocked to here it has been discontinued. I can’t begin to tell you how many times you have spoken to my heart! I shall miss your voice.

  46. Beth Mills says:

    I will add my voice to so many others telling you what a joy it has been over the last few years to reach for my Sunday paper and read your “letter”. That’s what it felt like – reading a letter from an old friend who so often knew what I was experiencing just then and wasn’t afraid to talk openly about it! I shall miss you in the paper, but look forward to following your blog.
    May this closed door bring a new opportunity into your life!

  47. So very disappointed to read your last column today. I don’t throw my papers away until I’ve read your posts. I had to read and reread to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. Coming to your website makes me sad to find out it’s true. Please continue to write and share your life. As a writer myself, that is impossible but I had to say it anyway. It’s part of who you are. Anderson, SC will miss you on Mondays but can still find you here in your little corner of the web. You have inspired me to be a better writer, friend, mother, and Christian. Thank you!

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