“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.


  1. Nancy Banta says

    I just had a reply from Tribune News Service and this is what John Barron said,”Thanks for taking the time to write about Sharon Randall. We appreciate your concerns and will register them. Decisions to discontinue any of our features are never easy, and this one was particularly difficult. I can assure you that many factors went into our thinking. Chief among them were business considerations rather than the obvious quality of Ms. Randall’s work.” My reply went something like ,”Are you kidding?” I’m not certain what is going on, but it seems to me in today’s world when the newspapers are not doing well you would think they would hang on to a gold mine like Sharon Randall.

  2. Pearlene Curry says

    You can also write Sharon via email at…………………randallbay@earthlink.net

  3. Pearlene Curry says

    I just wrote the Tribune News Service editor. They syndicated Sharon. Maybe if we all do……………………………

    • Phyllis VanWinkle says

      What does her statement that her syndication is changing? Has the Tribune News Service decided not to pay for and carry her column?

  4. Pearlene Curry says

    I was so lost this past Sunday when I did not see your column. I cried tears from missing your weekly input into the ways of life and this old world. You were like having coffee with a friend who knows your heart. I contacted my newspaper. He said he is trying to contact you to see of ways to get you back into their paper. So if a Tim Etheridge from Evansville Courier (Indiana) comes calling ,please answer the man’s knock. So many miss you so much.

  5. Could not believe my eyes as i read your Sunday’s column that the syndication is changing and you will no longer appear in the Naples Daily News. Maybe they should have asked your loyal readers before pulling your weekly letter,s yes that is what it felt like to read them you shared your highs and lows in life. You became a close friend. Over the years i have laughed and cried with you. I’m sure i will be reading your column somewhere. You can’t stop a great artist of the written word. Enjoy your little vacation before the next column starts. A Loyal Reader

  6. Carol Pfeffer says

    I was so sorry when I read the announcement that your column would no longer appear in my paper The Finger Lakes Times in Geneva NY. I looked forward to your columns and found that I could relate to so many of them. As a wife, mother and grandmother you hit the mark so often. I appreciated your look at your past when you wrote about growing up. I have so often been reminded of something in my past that I could relate to. I will miss your column and hope that I can find your writings via another path. Thank you.

  7. Lynn Laseter says

    I am having withdrawals. I thought I could handle the Sunday newspaper without your column being in it, but it was always the first thing I reached for in the Accent section. I am looking forward to hearing where I may find your column in the future. I’m glad you are not ready to quit writing. At least on a blog or anything. You are a very beloved writer, by me and by many.

  8. I picked up the Sunday Naples Daily News to read your column. Yes, I read your column last Sunday but had forgotten about your news. Your column is the best part of the Sunday paper. It was such a disappointment. I will be contacting our paper (which is owned by Gannett I believe) about this. Your writing has touched so many including me. I hope you keep on writing and maybe appear in other places. Good luck to you!

  9. I have read all the comments on the web page after your column disappeared from everyone’s paper. I’ve been a loyal follower since you started while we lived on the Monterey peninsula and echo all the appreciative comments the others have made. I was afraid you were going to announce that you were quitting. Our local paper is the Redding Searchlight and I was fortunate to see you in Redding a few years ago. Let’s hope someone can pick up your columns and distribute them and please don’t stop writing and at least appear on this website.

  10. John Schumaker says

    Your column was my favorite part of the Sunday Bristol Herald Courier. It reinforced what really matters in life, family, friends and opening your heart to all of us as if you’ve known us all your life. The fast pace of life keeps us from these precious once in a lifetime occurances, but you remind me that life passes us by if we don’t seize the opportunities to be with our grandchildren like my grandparents did. Thank you for the inspiration.

  11. Laura Klem says

    I was very disappointed to hear that your column would no longer appear in the Evansville (IN) Courier & Press. You column was what I looked forward to in the Sunday morning newspaper. Now it is just a newspaper. Not much to look forward to. I hope to hear that we can find your column elsewhere or on this site. Thank you so much for sharing your stories, life, and experiences.

  12. Joanne Williams says

    I read your “last column of 2015” with your revelation that my newspaper (Naples Daily News) might not publish any more of your columns, and thought, well, that doesn’t mean my paper! And this morning, I found that it was true! Your column has been how I started my Sunday ….I was very disappointed that I could not spend the few minutes with you and your family this Sunday morning! I hope that you will still be writing and at least posting it on your website. How else can I know the next adventures of Randy and his Nana, and the other grandkids as they grow up! I miss you already, Sharon, Randall! I know you will continue to write…how can you not?! It’s in your blood! I will contact my newspaper to express my displeasure; maybe they can tell the syndicator that we want you back! All the best in 2016, Sharon!

  13. I looked forward every Wednesday to the TRIBUNE ( Hastings Ne) because of your column . Please tell me how I can keep in touch and enjoy your down to earth. heart warming stories. Wishing you a Blessed new year.

    • You always made your readers feel like long time friends. It was like you were sitting across the kitchen table having coffee with each us. Thank you for being so raw and honest with your emotions – your endings were the real clingers. You were missed today in the Standard Times.

  14. Teresa Heaney says

    I hope you will continue to write your column, whether it appears in my local paper or elsewhere! I have grown to consider you a friend and love your perspective! Please find a way to continue to write publicly, that we may continue being friends!! Much happiness to you in 2016!

  15. I too am so sad to hear of not being able to sit down on Sunday mornings to read Sharon’s column any longer. So many times as I read her column I was taken to many heartfelt places. It saddens me to think we can no longer hear of her experiences, which more often than not left you feeling happy, saddened or just plain good about life. I will keep an eye on her Web site to keep up on life with Sharon. We have all lost a part of ourselves with the absence of her articles. Thank you Sharon for sharing your heartfelt experiences and my good wishes to you and your family.

  16. Vicki Rayburn says

    I’ll be waiting & watching! My Sunday mornings will definitely feel the void…your words were always what sent me “on my way”. Thanks for reaching out & touching so many, sharing all the ups & downs & twists & turns of your life’s journey through storytelling that resonated with us all.
    Enjoy this next chapter!!!

  17. Dear Sharon ,
    Thanks for publishing all the comments here on your web site . This is the proof how good you are as a writer, and best human being after sharing your columns for the whole world with this web site . Please keep writing on your web site and on line magazines and newspapers as well . We live in a world of social media and people do appreciate change . One day you would shine again like morning star in woods ,and would be awarded best on line blogger as well . Love to you and your family who must be aware of this change in your life .
    We all readers love you even more as you keep sharing recent changes and new developments as well . Keep sharing ,smiling and laughing as well like we do after reading a simple column full of wisdom and realities of life .

  18. Lisa Conway says

    Dear Sharon happy new year! I miss you already I always look forward to seeing you in Sunday Salina Journal. My husband and I enjoyed seeing you speak at Central high school a few years back we live in walking distance. I hope there will be a place we all can read your column we need you SHARON! I pray all is well with you and yours. Love, Lisa

  19. Barbara Alves says

    Every Sunday I looked forward to your column in my local paper. I felt so connected to you, and I will very much miss reading you each week. I hope there is a blog ahead, or some way you can continue to share your life and thoughts with us. I will truly miss hearing about you and your family.

  20. Norma Crise says

    There was only one reason I picked up our Sun. paper. I really have enjoyed your column from the beginning! Like all these others have commented you are like our family now. I will definitely let our Elkhart, Ind. paper know there is nothing left in their paper to enjoy. I do hope I can find your stories on your web site. I enjoy reading about your brother too he seems like an awesome brother, please tell him that for all of us! I missed you all this morning and feel like there’s a part of my day uncomplete! keep those stories coming Sis.

  21. Vern Sullivan says

    I really don’t think I can make it if I don’t have you in the paper on Saturdays. I’ve heard that all good things must come to an end but please don’t go! Oh well find a way to check you out every week but it just won’t be the same. I look forward to that saturday paper more than any during the week because of your column! Can’t count the times during the last few years when I’ve been going through trouble then I made it another week just because of you. Happy new year in 2016 and God bless you!

  22. John Jameson says

    Sharon, I’m sorry to hear your column wont be appearing in the Journal on Saturdays. Unfortunately I missed you when you visited Winston Salem. I think of you as a friend and I hope you will find a way to keep writing and sharing your good words. You are in my prayers.

    • Jackie Lynn Kiger says

      Sharon, I think my heart is broken. I was busy with life, as you understand so well, and I open the Saturday edition of the Journal to John Railey’s “We Miss Sharon Randall…” and BOOM, I heard a crack in my chest. This cannot be! Your column was why I opened the paper on Saturday. I, too, saved it for last as I knew it would bring me some measure of peace in whatever clime of life I currently resided in. Please, please keep writing and posting to this website. I will not be able to face 2016 without your words of wisdom. And I know for a concrete fact that I do not speak only for myself, but for a multitude of truth seekers and folks who cherish the stories you tell, no matter the subject. Honestly, I’ve yet to read one I didn’t go back and reread and generally find some morsel of my own experience in. I’ve long ago fallen in love with you and your family and made you and them my own. Don’t leave us Sharon. Find a way to come back to syndication. You’re a Carolina Girl at heart and Carolina Girls find a way. I have all the faith in the world in your ability to come back to us. In the meantime please post the stories here, where I often come for solace and laughter, for a dose of something I can get nowhere else.

  23. Reading your column was a trip home after a long absence. Catching up on the crazy cousins, the eccentric aunt, the wayward brother; your stories brought home memories of years gone by and all those that shaped us during those years. I look at some of the babble that takes up otherwise prime newspaper columns and ask the age old question ‘what were they thinking’. You will surely find a means of continuing to share your thoughts with us and we will surely find you.

  24. Leslie Theuret says

    I do will miss your column in the Meadville Tribune, Meadville, PA. I looked forward to them, and feel like your family is part of my family. I will notify my local paper and tell them what Sharon’s column meant to me. Best of Luck Sharon, and I hope I will find you somewhere again.

  25. nora hatcher says

    I’m so sorry to learn your column will no longer be there to read on Sunday. I read your column first every Sunday. I can’t tell you how much I will miss your Column. You touched me in some way in every column you wrote. I hope you can find someway to continue writing and wish you the best in the future.

  26. Marianne Wymer says

    I’m writing from Muncie, Indiana, where I looked forward to reading your column in The Star Press. I hope you will continue to write, even if it is just an occasional post to your website. Thanks for the glimpse into your world that you have given us. I have enjoyed it. I wish you all the best and I hope to “read” you again.

  27. Ken Richards says

    Don’t go too far – I will be following you. Just leave some crumbs so I will know where you have gone. Thanks for all your years of columns that I have enjoyed.

  28. This is my first Thursday without your column in the Thursday edition of the Finger Lakes Times from Geneva, NY. It is just not the same. Your column was so enjoyable and I have been reading since your first hysband’s cancer. At that time my life was running much like your with us losing a son at nearly the same time. Your Wild Mouse Cancer Ride sticks with me to this day. I feel as most people who read your column like they are members of your family. I do hope you continue to write columns and find a way to have them in papers.

  29. Steve Cline says

    Your column is like dessert. I always save the best for last. That is true with my Saturday mornings reading the Winston Salem, N. C. paper. Please tell me you will continue writing the column! If not you will truely be missed

  30. Dianne Herring says

    I have looked forward to your column every Sunday in The Dothan Eagle (Dothan, Alabama) for a number of years. When I read your article this past Sunday I became concerned that the best part of the newspaper for me may not continue in our local newspaper. Many times I have shared humorous comments that you have said with my husband and son. I have cut out and mailed your column to my bestest friend in Tuscaloosa because something in the article reminded me of our friendship. I have laughed out loud at your humor and laughter is so good for the soul. Thank you so much for being a blessing to me!

    Will your column be continued in our newspaper (The Dothan Eagle)? If not, will your column be on your blog?

  31. Debbie Dority says

    I just have so enjoyed your columns in our Wednesday newspaper. It says your last column of 2015, won’t I see your first column of 2016 next Wednesday?

    • I can hardly believe that you will no longer be in the Naples Daily News on Sunday. They have replaced you with an article on parenting. Not many senior citizens in Naples, Florida need to know about parenting! You were what I looked forward to every Sunday after Church, and you will be terribly missed. What is wrong with your syndicator? They must be crazy; you are the best part of each edition. Come back, we miss you!!!

  32. Brent Myers says

    Bull &$%# is not something to blurt out loud on a quiet Sunday morning — so my wife says. So, so sad, angry, confused to find you will no longer be part of my Sunday – warm, funny, caring, uplifting – you are the best part of the weekly news. Don’t know what syndication is changing means but sounds like someone at the Tribune has stepped in the Bull&$%#. The Tribune and my Wooster Daily Record will hear this woo. All the best to you and yours!

  33. I am very sad to hear that you will no longer be there in my Sunday Killeen Daily Herald (Texas) to enlighten me, make me cry, give me something to share with my Pastor for “that’ll preach” as he says, tell your story like it feels like mine and just give me something to look forward to every week. I wish you all the best!!!

  34. Natalie Myers says

    Today is Wednesday-the day your column normally appears in our paper-The Star Press in Muncie, IN-and I am sad because your column is missing. Hope someone can find a way to bring you back. You have such a unique way of saying things that hit home. Please keep posting your columns on this website. Natalie Myers

    • Sylvia McVey says

      I totally agree Natalie!! This was the first thing I read on Wednesday!! I love your perspective on so of many of life’s issues and has helped me get through some tough issues! Please keep writing…you are too young to retire!

  35. The highlight of my Monday has always been reading your articles. I have a file filled with them which really touched my heart. I became a widow about the time you did, and our shared pain became a heart cement which has never been broken.

    As a former English teacher writing has always been my passion, I have repeatedly declared through the years if I ever “grow up” as a writer I want to be just like you. For that reason and many more, I will mourn the loss of your column. Please give us another venue for gaining your real-life wisdom and heartwarming stories.

  36. ChickyChick says

    Don’t call your local newspaper. They can’t do a thing about it. They would if they could. What you can do is contact Tribune News Service, the syndication company that is dropping her column.

  37. I also felt sad when Reporter stopped publishing your column
    But I am so thankful that website address was there so I can read it here ,love you Sharon ,please start writing a book of stories ,we would love to read each one .

  38. Kathleen Burkhart says

    Syndication is changing…What does that mean? Your last column prompts me to follow your advice:…”we need to say what is on our heart while there’s time to say it.” I have enjoyed your column so much. You’ve made me laugh; you’ve made me cry; you’ve made me think about my life in new ways. I’ve cut out and saved many of your columns which I’ve stashed away here, there, and who knows where. I loved reading about the times you’ve spent with your grandchildren, even though I have none. I felt sorry for you when you had to move to Las Vegas “of all places,” even though I’ve never been there. I found meaning in your column about not allowing fear to deprive you of life’s joys and thought of sharing it with a friend who needs to learn that lesson, but was sure she would have taken offense and never have spoken to me again! Tears come to my eyes as I recall the column you wrote about spending several months alone in a cabin in the woods of North Carolina during a difficult period in your life and the joy you discovered again in the beauty of the natural world you experienced there. I will truly miss your weekly column in the Reading Eagle in Reading, PA ( yes, of Reading Railroad fame). Even if you continue to write on your website, I’m not sure that I’m the type of person who will seek it out on line. I intend to call the editor of the Eagle, as suggested by Terri Hahn. Maybe that will make a difference.

  39. Judy Prater says

    I was shocked! Was reading and as usual was enjoying your column when near the end I was in disbelief. Had to reread the sentences over and over – thinking I was not reading it correctly. PLEASE continue to write. Can we somehow stay connected through your blog and by a miracle maybe the news service that syndicated your column will reconsider. I LOVE your writing!!!!!

  40. I just want to weigh in here as an editor who works for a newspaper that carries Sharon’s column. It’s not our decision to drop the column, it was the news service that syndicated it. Trust me, we are as upset as you are about this decision and we are doing whatever we can to see if there is any way to keep carrying it. We have tried reaching out to the news service but they haven’t returned our calls. I choose to blame holiday work schedules for this and hope they aren’t just ignoring us.

    Please call your local newspapers and calmly express your displeasure. Remember, this was not their decision and blaming them is pointless. Just let them know you’re not happy. We are keeping track of the calls, so we have numbers to give to the news service. Don’t think your calls and opinions don’t matter. They do.

    Meanwhile, Sharon, I wish you all the best and hope to hear from you soon, whether here or back on the pages of our Sunday paper.

  41. Paula Vaughn says

    Speaking for myself, I hope you decide to write columns until the cows come home. I am already missing your wisdom and humor. We faithful followers have lived with you through all your good and not as good times and want to continue to do so. Thanks for all you have done in the past and looking forward to more in the future. Bah Humbug to those who don’t appreciate just how much we enjoy reading your column every week.

  42. Rita Sturgill says

    I read your column every Sunday in the Bristol Herald Courier in Bristol, VA. When you would write about your late husband it touched my heart as I lost my dad and two brothers to cancer. I also loved it when you would write about your brother, he has such a wonderful sense of humor. When you would write about your childhood I would think back to mine and smile. I was raised on a farm outside Damascus, VA with 11 siblings (my brother that passed away first was 14 and I was 8). To this day I cannot figure out how my mom and dad raised us and was still sane. You are such a wonderful writer and I hope you continue to write your columns and post them on your website so I can continue to enjoy them. If you ever speak near Bristol, VA please let me know.

  43. I was so sad to read your latest column. While I don’t understand changes in syndication, I would try to take some action if I knew what action to take. If we can’t get your column in our local newspaper (Wooster Daily Record), we need someway to stay in touch via your blog, etc. so we can continue to “be there” while your children and grandchildren grow up! I love your column and have enjoyed following you and your family through the years!

  44. carolyn merriman says

    I just got home from spending Christmas with my grandkids & was catching up on the papers when I read your Dec 24 column. It has reduced me to tears. Not the good or sentimental tears That well up when I read your columns. Those are sad/happy because your columns are so heartfelt and true to life. I feel like I am losing a best friend that I never got to tell goodby. Please, please continue to publish your thoughts on this website as often as possible. I realize yo have a very busy life, but to see no more of your thoughts and stories would leave a big void in my life, and from the long list of comments, from many others.

  45. Jane pfennig says

    This can not be, how can I face Monday without your column to read. Please keep us informed as to how we can stay in touch. You have made me laugh and made me cry . You always seemed to know what to say at the right time . I thank you for that and send blessings to you and your family!

  46. John Sanchez says

    Personally, I have loved every column you have submitted. It had a lot of heart and soul in it. It always felt warn and comforting to hear about life of another person. Life to me is precious with lots of love to have and give.
    Would love to read your columns whenever or wherever it comes out.
    Thank You!!!

  47. loretta flicker says

    I will also miss your column. I have laughed and cried with you. God Bless you in whatever the future holds. Won’t say goodbye, but see you later, Friend

  48. loretta flicker says

    I am also sorry that your column will no longer brighten my day. I have enjoyed them and laughed and cried. Hope you enjoy whatever the future holds for you. And thank you, friend.

  49. Please say it isn’t so! Your column is one of the prime reasons I subscribe to the liberal daily paper in Florence, Alabama. I feel I know you well because you share your joys and struggles as if you were my close friend. I hope I can continue to stay in touch through reading your blog. I plan to complain to the paper about the removal of your column. God bless you as you continue to bless your family and friends and those of us lucky enough to know you through your written words.

  50. I’m sorry to learn your column will no longer be there to brighten up my Monday. I’ve looked forward to it every Monday for years. I’ve loved the times you wrote about your brother. Both my parents were totally blind and raised 5 of us well without help despite the obstacles their difference posed. After all, it’s only a “handicap” if you allow it to be. I wish you well with your future endeavors. Enjoy the grandkids!

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