Goodbyes are never easy, but they do give us a rare opportunity to look back at what came before them with clarity and gratitude.
TODAY's Natalie Morales gave us all that opportunity Friday morning, as she said farewell to both her Studio 1A family and to the viewers who’ve made her 22 years at NBC so special.
And before leaving, she shared a touching message.
“Dear viewers... From the minute I stepped in front of the camera and into your living rooms, I knew it was an honor to be part of your morning tradition, the most sacred time,” she wrote in a letter read on TODAY. “With you, I’ve had a front seat to moments that captured our hearts, moments I will forever cherish as I witnessed history.
“I traveled the country with some of America’s leaders and covered the most incredible stories — like the rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days. Together we witnessed a miracle. I have enjoyed two royal weddings and held court in London awaiting the first royal birth in decades. Events forever on my highlight reel."
Of course, not all stories were celebrations, but she continued, adding that "even when stories broke our hearts, I found hope and inspiration in so many who triumphed, like Celeste Corocoran and her daughter Sydney, survivors who a year later helped her sister, Carmen Acabo, finally cross the finish line never reached in Boston. I, too, was inspired to run and raised thousands for their cause thanks to your support.
"So many extraordinary people touched our lives, trusting us with their awe-inspiring journeys."
One journey that's stood out to her over the years has been that of the class of 2020.
"We raised an entire group of kids as I followed the class of 2020 from kindergarten to their senior year," she wrote.
"And when the world celebrated, I got to hang with the contenders while covering eight Olympics, from Athens to Tokyo."
"I had an audience with some of the most compelling guests of our day and celebrities from one carpet to another," she added of the many stars she's had the chance to meet and interview.
Then Natalie reflected on her own extraordinary experiences during her time here.
"Never one to shy away from a chance to try something new, I’ve had so many amazing adventures," she recalled. "We’ve had a lot of laughs. Many at my expense, I’m sure you would agree. And have shared moments that matter most, as both my children were born. I felt your well wishes, and you have felt my joy seeing them grow up."
In closing, she wrote, "Dear viewers, you and my TODAY family have given me a place I will forever call home. Thank you for all those mornings and the lifetime of memories we now share. With all my love and gratitude, Natalie."
Natalie announced her plans to leave NBC back in October, after 22 years with the network and 15 years here at TODAY.
At that time, TODAY executive producer Tom Mazzarelli sent a note to NBC News staffers celebrating Morales for her decades of amazing work.
"She’s been offered an opportunity she’s passionate about and has decided to step away from NBC News after an incredible two-decade career here," he wrote. "So please join me in wishing her nothing but the best from her family here at TODAY."