Goodbyes are always tough.
They don't usually feel good at all, so let's get that part over with fast.
This is my last column for The Plain Dealer:
Life opens and closes doors. After 17 years here, a door is closing.
My first column ran in The Plain Dealer on April 2, 2000. Since then, I've written over 1,800 columns for The Plain Dealer.
Talk about being blessed. What a joy it has been.
Oh, the places we went: Malachi House, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the West Side Catholic Center, burn camp, foster kids camp, inner-city homes in the poorest places and homeless shelters where a boy named David in a coat way too large reminded me that kids like him are our kids.
We took on bishops, prosecutors, judges, mayors and school superintendents. Thousands of you signed petitions, and we changed the law in Ohio to get open discovery so prosecutors could no longer hide information in criminal cases.
We found the Lost Boys of Sudan jobs and homes and a future here. Every time I see them they thank me, but you deserve their thanks, along with the two who spearheaded a movement to help them, St. Ignatius High School teacher Tim Evans and Sister Mary Frances Harrington, may she rest in peace.
I regret a few columns. I was too hard on Norma Lerner and on Dr. Karen Jaffe. I also regret being so insensitive about obesity without having any personal understanding of it.
You stayed gracious and shared your life with me and let me share mine: My daughter's surgery to remove the threat of breast cancer, her wedding, the birth of her three children, my mother's journey through Alzheimer's and her death in November.
We celebrated the Cavs' NBA championship, the Indians almost winning the World Series and those three women walking free from Castro's house of horrors.
We cheered for ordinary people, bus drivers, barbers, teachers, nuns, people like David Gordon, a joyful young man with Down syndrome; Randy Stang, who used his last breath to champion a skating park for kids in Bay Village; and former ice cream scooper Terrance Embry, who will one day be a doctor thanks to all of you.
You'll never know the reach of your generosity. You bought wigs for The Gathering Place for women going through chemo, beds for poor children all over Cleveland through the Cleveland Furniture Bank, new clothes for rape victims at area hospitals.
You sent other people's kids to college by supporting Jimmy Malone's annual golf outing. You grew 100 Women Who Care chapters that meet monthly and raise $10,000 in one hour for local charities.
You helped open Ohio's adoption records so people like my sister-in-law could meet their birth parents.
You laughed at my silly columns on the giant tooth, men and toilet seats, edible undies, snoring and Sudoku.
You supported (or at least tolerated) me when I wrote about racism, abortion, gun violence, gay rights, the death penalty, drunken driving, sex education, pedophile priests, teen pregnancy, suicide, mental illness and child abuse.
We went to funerals of soldiers, cops and kids who died way too soon. We shared every Easter, Christmas and cancer-versary. (This month makes 19 years cancer free for me.)
You turned my 50 life lessons into a global sensation by emailing them to friends and family all over the world. The book they inspired, "God Never Blinks," is published in over 20 different languages.
I'm writing book number four, posting regularly on Facebook at facebook.com/ReginaBrettFans and blogging at reginabrett.com, where you can also find my upcoming speeches.
You can still read my columns in the Cleveland Jewish News. With a name like Regina Maria, I'm surely not Jewish, but I do feel a kinship and connection to the tribe, partly because my husband is a member.
I want to thank Dick Feagler, whose PD columns I clipped, saved and studied. My journalism professors at Kent State always barked, "Bring me humans!" Dick found the most interesting ones and taught me where to find them.
A big thanks to my co-workers, editors and copy editors. A special thanks to Doug Clifton, the editor who hired me 17 years ago; to Stuart Warner, who mentored me most, and to the paper's current editor, George Rodrigue, who held onto me as long as he could.
Thank you all, for inviting me to your kitchen table every morning. You carried my column in your lunch pails, wallets and toolboxes. You stuck my columns under refrigerator magnets, the highest honor of all.
When I first started here, The Plain Dealer planned an ad for my column and asked what I wrote about.
"My beat is the human heart," I told them.
Thanks for keeping me so close to your heart. You will always be in mine.