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Farewell to Oprah

I have to admit that I'll be watching Oprah with a box of tissues this week.The final show will air on Wednesday.

Today, some of the biggest celebs of our time -- Madonna, Tom Cruise, Beyonce and Diane Sawyer, to name a few -- gathered to pay tribute. The bash continues tomorrow.

For 25 years, Oprah has been part of my life.

In fact, I remember the first time I saw her show. I was 14 years old and I walked past a television at Lowe's in my hometown and backtracked to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. There she was, this brown-skinned woman with an audience, talking about some issue or another. The volume was muted so I have no idea what the topic was that day, but I was mesmerized by the way she moved, the way her eyes danced, the way she drew people into her world.

Over the next few years, I watched her show as often as I could. My parents banished televisions from our home, so for a few years, it was next to impossible for me to see the show. I remember times when I would pretend that I left my house key at home so that I could go to my best friend's house after school and watch the show. Later, my brothers and I sneaked a television into the house, a little 7 inch screen with a long antenna, and I used to fight to have the television in the afternoons so I could watch the show.

In the past two years, after I was laid off from my job, I rarely missed a show, even if I had to DVR it. When I heard she was ending the show, I was devastated. The show is as much a part of my life as, well, going to Walmart.

I quote Oprah more often than I quote the Bible, which is saying something. I can't tell you how many times I've said "Well, you know Oprah was saying the other day that..."

I can't believe she won't be there as a role model for Michaela in the years to come. I can't believe that I won't be able to call Michaela up, some day years from now, when she's off at college or raising kids of her own, and chat about whatever Oprah talked about that day.

It's sad that one less black woman will be a visible and vocal model of success for our daughters, regardless of our race or socioeconomic status. She handled fortune and fame with such class and sass. She taught us to love ourselves, embrace our flaws and overcome our past. She helped us find the nurturer, the teacher and the altruist within ourselves and to be passionate about life. 

She taught us the power of philanthropy, of education and of forgiveness. For 25 years, she showed us that hard work pays off, that we can dress modestly and still be fashionable, that pain is universal, and that the world isn't so big after all.

She's a billionaire, but I could still relate. She loved giving -- big-time giving -- not for the notoriety, but for the sake of showing people that dreams do come true.

Some of my favorite shows were about everyday people who made a difference in the lives of others, who found the strength to rise out of painful situations, who fought to realize a dream.

Oprah gave me hope. Hope that a country girl could make it big time. Hope that I will find my own calling. Hope that I can change the lives of millions by simply doing what my heart leads me to do.

Who knows, one day I may stand in front of a crowd and say, my arms open wide, an infectious smile on my face, and say: "You get one, and you get one, and you get one. EVERYbody gets one!"

Even if all I have to give is hope.

Farewell, Oprah. I'll miss you. But then again, I am you in my own special way.