Image Credit: John Paschal/2010

Bob retired from the hospital, Casey took off to law school, and Barbara dissolved her partnership with Paul — but what happened in today’s episode of CBS’ As the World Turns wasn’t nearly as significant as the reason behind all those major life changes for the folks of Oakdale. Today was the 13,858th and final episode of the venerable soap opera, which was canceled last year because of low ratings. Clearly, the writers took great care to keep things happy and optimistic for all the characters: Janet asked Jack to be Lorenzo’s godfather, Carly looked forward to having another baby, Chris proposed to Katie, and Lucinda and John reunited. Everyone goes on to live happily ever after! (Except, it seems, for poor Luke).

But it was hard not to get a little misty-eyed while watching Don Hastings, as Bob Hughes, take one last look around his hospital office. The scene was particularly poignant because, as Kathryn Hays told EW, they did it with the entire cast and crew watching from behind the cameras. “I don’t think there should be goodbyes,” her character, Kim, tells Bob before he leaves the gig for good. “Just goodnight. So my sweetheart, it’s time to have fun.”

There’s nothing particularly fun about watching the lights go out for good on another daytime soap. But at least the cast of As the World Turns got the chance to present one last love letter to its (dwindling but devoted) fan base. Let’s hope those viewers will transfer their affection to another sudser so the genre will stay alive and well.

So did you watch the finale?