I began writing this column back in December 2017 for two reasons. The first is that I find writing to be cathartic, a way of expressing what is on my mind and in my heart in a way that, for me, words often do not allow. The second is that I hoped to bring some laughter, peace and a sense of connection to people in our community, of which our family is still fairly new.

My goal was to focus on positive aspects of daily life; noticing and appreciating the little things, how vital close friendships are, the way great music sinks into your body and soul, how planting and nurturing a garden is therapeutic, the way we’re capable of having a million fantastic adventures right from the comfort of home through reading and imagination and how sometimes life can be difficult, but it is always, always worth the effort. Sweet, and occasionally, bittersweet.

I wanted to stay away from topics that divide us; politics, the economy, a difference in priorities, or, sadly, even religion at times. Because I am convinced that, underneath all of these things that have the potential to divide us, we are very much the same. We all want to love and to be loved, we want to be accepted for who we are, we need to be needed, need to feel safe and most of us desire a sense of purpose.

This column is my last. And while my heart is heavy, I want to thank Fred Scheller, our publisher, for taking a chance on me, with degrees in criminal justice and nonprofit management, not journalism or creative writing, and allowing a quiet person with a passion for writing the opportunity to do so each week for the past eight months. I want to thank our editor, Greg Klein, for his patience with all of my questions. And most of all, I want to thank anyone who has taken the time to read these.

From the gentleman in the village grocery store that exclaimed, “One of my boys accidentally broke his brother’s tooth as well, and on a holiday weekend, just like your boys! Ours was a collision while playing badminton,” in reference to what I now call the Good Friday Tooth Massacre, where my boys finally learned not to throw rocks at one another, to my incredibly supportive and wonderful supervisor at work who cuts out each article and leaves it on our counter, to the handful of handwritten letters that somehow found their way to my post office box with only my name and town written on them; your kind words, and more importantly to me, the notion that you related to and connected with what you read, with what was not only on my heart, but OUR hearts, means so much.

There’s still so much on my mind, so much on my heart that I wished to share with you; my daughter’s week at Circus Camp, how my boys and I went swimming on a whim in the Susquehanna River, fully clothed on a hot day after a picnic lunch, then went “squish, squish, squishing,” dripping wet down Main Street because they wanted to see if anything was happening at Doubleday Field afterward. How my middle child and I are going to start horseback riding lessons together. It will be a special time for the two of us and riding is something I did many years ago which I have missed. It’s never too late to begin or to begin again!

I wanted to talk about heroes; Fred Rogers, Jimmy Carter, Tim Russert (he was a fellow Buffalonian!), Hoda Kotb, Mother Theresa, Erma Bombeck, Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon. I admire each for different reasons; their kindness, their compassion and commitment to children, their wisdom, honesty, and humility, their courage in being true to themselves, and their innate ability to make me laugh.

I would tell you about my dear friends, the Abdallah family, who were the first to invite me into their home after arriving here. They are my children’s classmates, their soccer coaches, our trusted neighborhood mechanic, our emergency room nurses and women with whom I get together, most of us in our pajamas, and drink early morning coffee from time to time. They are the salt of the Earth, the best of the best and I am honored to have them in my life.

Fred Rogers speaks beautifully on the power of human connection when he said “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

I will end with one thing, not goodbye, but simply, thank you.