"This is my love letter to you," Winfrey, 57, said during the episode which taped Tuesday in Chicago. Alone on her studio stage – a striking contrast to the previous two shows, which were star-studded spectaculars before 13,000 cheering fans at the United Center – Winfrey said, "I want to leave you with lessons from my life."
Saying goodbye to the TV show that turned her into big sister to the world, Winfrey spent the hour sharing favorite clips and recounting what she's gleaned during her run as the most successful talk show host in history.
Winfrey credited a higher power with her astonishing achievements. "In every decision, I wait and listen for the guidance that's greater than my meager mind," she said.
Winfrey, who appeared calm and confident but with an occasional tear in her eye, continued to share lessons with her fans. "Each one of you has your own platform. You can help somebody, you can listen, you can forgive," she said. "My greatest wish for all of you ... is that you carry whatever you are supposed to be doing and don't waste any more time."
We Are ResponsibleAmong the other lessons she's learned over the past quarter century, Winfrey said, "You are responsible for the energy you create for yourself, and the energy you bring to others. Don't wait for somebody else to save you, to complete you, to fix you."
At the end of the hour, Winfrey said she felt "all sweet, no bitter," and thanked viewers.
"I won't say goodbye," she said. "I'll just say, 'Until we meet again.' "
Winfrey then stepped down the steps of the stage, walked through the audience, stopping to give longtime partner Stedman Graham a hug and kiss. She continued out the studio doors, and high-fived members of her staff who had crowded into the hallways and the staircase that leads to the studio's offices above.
At the top of the stairs, she picked up her cocker spaniel and said, "Sadie, we did it!" Winfrey then walked with the pup in her arms toward her office as the show ended.
The Oprah Winfrey Show finale will air Wednesday on ABC.