Well, here we are.
I am writing this column from my kitchen table, as I so often do. But this time, reader-friends, that table sits in my new home in Bemidji. Which means that it’s time to say goodbye.
It’s an almost unfathomable task, crafting this final column. Since January 2006, I’ve written more than 820 weekly letters to you. More than 450,000 words.
And yet, I struggled with what I wanted to say to you today. I wondered: What could I possibly write to sum up what this column and the connection I feel to you has meant to me? And then I realized: It had to be a love letter.
Because I love this community and the people in it more than I could’ve ever predicted when we moved here 25 years ago. And even though I’m excited for the adventures ahead, saying goodbye to you and this town is one of the hardest things I’ll ever do.
Jay and I moved to Rochester just two months after our May 1996 wedding. The day we arrived at that two-bedroom apartment on 18th Avenue was the first day I’d set foot in this town. And I didn’t expect to be here long. I figured we’d stick around a year, two tops, before returning to the Twin Cities or moving back “up north.”
But we all know that story: Rochester sucks you in. And it wasn’t long before we, like thousands before us, jumped head-first into this beautiful, big-hearted, incomparable city. And thank God for that. Because living here has shaped me and my family in ways that no other city could.
Because, yes: I love Rochester’s trails and parks and restaurants. Its arts and farmers markets and coffee shops. Its subway and carillon and Castle. Its energy and history and skyline.
But mostly, I love its heart. I love its people. I love its commitment to serving others. Rochester is a city built on hope and healing and service. And it shows.
It shows in how, when you see someone walking downtown, looking lost, you say, “Can I help you?”
It shows in how almost everyone you meet here has spent time or money supporting a cause bigger than themselves, just because it’s the right thing to do. Because they feel drawn to give back.
It shows in the number of people who’ve told me that, when they hear Mayo One flying overhead, they instinctively put a hand to heart and say a prayer. Because, when you live here, those flights are reminders that life is precious and fragile and not to be taken for granted.
And, Rochester, I love how you — with your big hearts and kind natures — have embraced me and let me be my sometimes weird, sometimes funny, sometimes weepy self. How you’ve welcomed me and made me feel like a valued part of this community.
And I love what I’ve been able to do here, in the Post Bulletin, every week since January 2006. How I’ve been given this immense gift of chatting over my kitchen table with you. I have never taken it lightly, and I have loved every last minute of it. Even as I head, now, into the very last minute.
Thank you, my dear reader-friends. Thank you for letting me into your hearts. Thank you for your support and your love. You have made Rochester my home — with every heart-tugging connotation that comes with that word. I will forever be grateful.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jen Koski will continue writing on her blog at www.jenniferhaugenkoski.weebly.com. She anticipates that her next post will be titled: “Things that didn’t fit in my last column.” You can also continue to reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.