I lived next to my best friend Edna for eleven years. This is how I found her. My husband and I had been driving around town for weeks looking for a place to build a new home. We felt drawn to a vacant lot next to a small white frame house on sixth east in Spanish Fork. We stopped the car and knocked on the door of that house to see if the person who lived there knew who owned the lot.
A petite white haired woman opened the door. We introduced ourselves and she told us she owned the lot. Then she looked at us, really looked at us as if she were seeing through our skin into our hearts. After a long quiet moment she told us she would be happy to sell the lot to us and offered us a fair price.
Later we found out from the other neighbors that many people had been trying to buy that lot for years but she wouldn’t sell. We never did figure out why she decided to sell it to us, two total strangers.
In the next few months we built our new house and moved in. Before long my children or I were at Edna’s house on a daily basis, my husband was tilling her garden and we became best friends. She helped me through my miscarriage and I helped her through her son’s unexpected death. When my children went to visit her, she would play games with them, read them stories and always send them home with a piece of candy. She became their second grandma.
When my growing family got too big for our house, we put a for sale sign up in the front yard. Edna told me she cried for days. We bought a larger house up on the bench but we still invited her to all our birthday parties and holiday celebrations as usual. Some people define family as those who share the same genes. I define family as those who love each other. Edna was family.
Later Edna’s children decided to put her into a residential facility for senior citizens. Now she had only a small bedroom to call her own. She had help with meals and cleaning but she wasn’t very happy there.
“Janene, I can’t carry on an intelligent conversation with any one who lives here,” she told me. “I miss you.”
I offered to have her come and live with me but she declined. Before long Edna was in a nursing home. My family and I went to visit her and bring gifts. After I located her room, I found her resting in bed. Soft evening light streamed into the room from a window above her head and made her face and white hair glow. She looked like an angel.
I walked quietly to her bed, knelt on the floor next to her and kissed her on the cheek. She turned and kissed me back.
“Oh, Edna you look like an angel,” I whispered in her ear.
“Janene, you see me like that because you love me,” she answered.
She spoke the truth. Those we love become shining and beautiful to us. It doesn’t matter what they look like on the outside because we see the exquisiteness of their soul.
“Remember that day when you knocked on my door for the first time?” Edna asked me before we left that day. “God told me you were my angel. That’s why I let you build next to me.”
I spoke at Edna’s funeral. I still miss her.