I didnít want the occasion to pass without saying something Ė I just didnít realize how hard it would be to reduce the avalanche of my scattered emotions into coherent words.

How do you say goodbye to a dear and trusted friend? She always starts out our conversations with her never-to-be humble opinion, and thatís a good thing. Itís not that I always agree with what she says that makes it a noble way to begin. Itís that she makes me stop for a moment to consider. She challenges my view of the world Ė opening my eyes to ideas that I might not otherwise take into account.

From there, we move on to the news, to the things that are happening in my own neck of the world. Whether it is politics, or education or local government, presented up front in our weekly encounters are all the tidbits of information that make me a better and more informed community member.

But then our dialogue moves on to sharing the best of the Valley. Oh sure, there is a lot of who is doing what, where and when, but it is the Ďwhyí that she has a special way of fully flushing out. Through that, I get to know my neighbors better.

We spend a lot of time focused on our fellow citizens. There are the ladies who hike together each week and monthly demonstrate their love of the Valley by stopping to pick up trash along the roadside. They are only but one of the many groups and individuals who quietly Ėwith no expectation of thanks Ė step up to make this a better, cleaner and happier place to be.

It saddens me beyond the limits of words when I dwell on the fact that my best avenue to hear about all those people is gone. Who will bring them to my attention now, so I can give them the thanks they so well deserve? And it is not just them, itís all the others, too.

All too soon I will be left to yearn for our long and varied tÍte-ŗ-tÍtes on the arts. My gosh, just when I think there canít possibly be another, there is. From chalk paintings on the sidewalks to mosaic fountains in our parks, wood carvings to the finest lacy jewelry, there is always someone new to be introduced to. Every year, we take the artist tour together and yet never make it to all the local studios within our allotted time.

And donít get me started on the music, because that will just lead to the theaters and to tales in the taverns and in the mountains, and to making flutes shared with needy children worldwide. Itís amazing to me how so much of what happens in our little Valley ripples out to touch others internationally? How many groups of students have we discussed? How many places have they gone?

So, too, will I pine for all the heart-to-hearts weíve had about our more locally bound children. I donít know which impress me more Ė those who excel at sports, academics, philanthropy Ė or those who endure special needs and manage somehow to still make it through life with a smile. Without you, my comrade, who will tell their tales?

I donít know how I am supposed to say goodbye to the dear and trusted friend the Valley Journal has been both to me and to so many others? That the task must surely begin with a nod and the most sincere thanks to Nancy Crawford-Hall goes without saying. She has invested so greatly of her time, talent and savings in creating the entity that has given so much to so many of us. Thank you. Thank you for taking me on and letting me be a part of it. As a member of her staff, I think I can now fairly admit that we function more or less as a family Ė not always giving each other the respect or expressing the appreciation our counterparts are due Ė but always finding a way to work together to serve both the paper and the community. It would be utter foolishness for me to even try to articulate how much I miss my co-workers already. They are by far above the bar Ė even when that bar is set high.

But I think perhaps I will miss even more our loyal readers Ė the emails with story ideas, the being stopped on the street to try to answer a question, the occasional thank-you note that reduces me to tears.

So many of you have invited me into your lives, opening your doors and hearts to me and risking your stories to my words. How thankful am I for those moments; how I shall miss you and miss the opportunity to get to know those of you whose stories remain untold.

I should have liked never to have offended, never to have missed important facts, but I have and I humbly apologize for my failures. I cannot say adieu without first saying that. That said, Iím still left with my query.

As you read these words, the door to the Journalís tomorrows has already darkened, cold and damp like the wintery sky. But our journey has brought us as a community closer. If nothing else, should we choose to do so, we can at least hold on to that.

So farewell, my good and trusted friend. Thank you for the memories, for the lessons learned, for the bonds that would never have united had you not brought us together. Well done. saralloydt@live.com