Pamela Anderson Tearful Goodbye to Hef ... You Gave Me Life!

9/28/2017 7:30 AM PDT

Pamela Anderson Sobbing Through Goodbye Message to Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner held up a piece of paper with Pamela Anderson's name on it, and a heart drawn around it, the last time she saw him ... which Pam revealed during a sobbing farewell to the Playboy founder.

Pam, arguably the most famous Playmate, was crying with her eye makeup running when she posted the message for Hef, saying ... "I am me because of you / You taught me everything important about freedom and respect. Outside of my family / You were the most important person in my life / You gave me my life..."

Pam's October 1989 Playboy cover launched her career, and she became Playmate of the Month in February 1990 -- and she's remained extremely close to Hef ever since.

She says he was in such failing health the last time she visited that Hef didn't want her to see him. As we reported, Hef's condition had seriously deteriorated before his death Wednesday.

Pam thanked the Playboy legend for making the world "a better place. A freeer and sexier place."