I never really said good-bye to Tony Soprano, one of the great characters, on one of the greatest shows of all time.

For six seasons, over eight years, (1999-2007) we followed America’s favorite crime family. We saw an American gangster trying to make his way into the new millennium as a loving father, a caring husband, and a cold-blooded killer, all the while going through therapy and dealing with his overwhelming anxiety.

The show had so many incredibly well-written and even better acted moments, that pulled us into the lives of these criminals, and oddly, made us care. I mean, who didn’t tear up (even a little bit) when Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore) went for his final swim with the fishes, when Tony aided Christopher (Michael Imperioli) toward his climactic trip into the oblivion, or when cousin Ralphie (Joe Pantoliano) was sliced into bits and pieces.

But at the heart of the show was always Tony Soprano, the character portrayed and associated with James Gandolfini, who died early today, June 19, 2013. Reports are that Gandolfini suffered a major heart attack while in Rome. He was 51.

Six years ago, we lost Tony Soprano to an ambiguous series finale: Tony sits in a diner, awaiting the arrival of his family. One at a time they enter. First his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco), then his son A.J. (Robert Iler), and finally his daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler). As Meadow enters, Tony looks up … cut to black. End of series. Full of ambiguity. You decide the outcome.

I always imagined that it was simply, life goes on. Gandolfini played Tony Soprano with a larger than life exuberance, so much so, that I was never able to disassociate the two. Gandolfini was, and always will be, Tony Soprano.

With the passing of James Gandolfini, fans of The Sopranos, can finally put to rest the spirit of T (as so many called him).  Tony Soprano’s final moments were always a mystery that I would periodically consider, weighing the possibilities. I think fans of Gandolfini and the show may now rest easy and say, “Good-bye, Tony Soprano.”

And life goes on.

By Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine