The first thing that flashed in my mind this morning as my son poked me awake at 6:30 am was “Oh my God…this is it. The last Oprah show is today…”
Next thought: How will I deal with it? I thought about flying to Chicago, throwing myself to the floor and clinging to her legs, begging Don’t leave me! But that would be undignified. And creepy. I imagined myself screaming as the cops dragged me away…But you guys don’t understand! Oprah is my best friend!
Oprah truly does feel like a friend to me, and to so many of us. She has been a companion to my days for the last twenty-five years. When I’ve been hopeless, I’ve looked to her for direction. On so many occasions her show inspired me, pulling me out of a life rut. I’ve taken her advice on many issues. Like her, I too start my days asking that God use my life for something greater than I know. She taught me that.
In fact, Oprah taught me more than I ever learned growing up in my family. She taught me that you can be born a poor black child in the segregated deep South, and become the most beloved woman in the world.
When she shared that she was molested as a child, she taught me you can be damaged and still be happy.
When I learned about her hidden pregnancy at 14, and the baby’s death, it taught me terrible mistakes are not the end of your life.
When she exposed her secrets to the world, she taught me that it is okay to tell the truth, about everything.
She brought incest and child abuse and homosexuality and shame out of the closet.
She taught me that being happy for other’s successes lifts all of humanity.
She taught me that money and power is not necessarily the root of all evil. Some people use theirs for good.
When she sat down with guests who she’d had previous conflicts with, she taught me it’s okay to be wrong and say you’re sorry.
Through her struggles with weight, she taught that most of us will have lifelong battles that we may overcome, or we may not, but we are still worthy and lovable just as we are.
She’s taught women everywhere that you can rise to the top, be a powerful woman, have kids or not have kids, be married or don’t. Be yourself.
Growing up, I had never known a person like that. But since learning they exist, I have sought them out. My life is now filled with phenomenal, brave, honest people like Oprah. If it weren’t for Oprah and her influence on my life, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to start my own nonprofit for foster kids, to write my memoir, or to write The Shame Prom with Amy Ferris.
And for all you eye-rollers out there who have your doubts about her, I hear you. She is human. I’ve been mad at her here and there. She has her moods, she gets caught up in her ego sometimes, and is flawed like everyone else. And yes, I know she’s not God (though the jury is still out on that one…I mean, you never know…)
On the other hand, Oprah has had a positive influence on our culture, more than any other living person I can think of. Seriously, the Dalai Lama doesn’t have as much reach and influence (no offense, Dalai!). People in the poorest countries in Africa watch her. Women in Saudi Arabia gather in their burqas to watch her. I even believe that her personal endorsement was a big reason Barack Obama won the Presidency.
She has emboldened a generation, opened our minds to new possibilities, exposed us to other cultures and ways of thinking. She cast a strong bright light on the hidden shame we all carried. She brought positive television to the masses.
She gave us hope and laughter and truth when we needed it, and for that Ms. Oprah Winfrey, I am eternally grateful.
So long, dear friend. I will miss you terribly …
P.S. Will you miss me, too?