I didn't have to go. She would never consider that I had not shown up. Having not spoken in close to thirty eight years, I would certainly not be foremost in her mind of old friends who did not make a condolence call.

But somehow I felt I had to go. I entered her parents' house, and quickly determined she was not sitting in the living room with her sisters, where most of the noise was coming from. I looked over and saw a smaller room – perhaps a den – and there she was, sitting alone on the floor.

I told her my name and she gaspedThere was no one with her and she looked up at me, towering above her and said, "I am not so good with names – you are?" (I decided at that moment that this would probably be a pretty short call, after all, since she didn't even know who I was.) I told her my name and she gasped.

I could not stand above her any longer, and could not even bring myself to sit above her level on the couch. I sat down on the floor and we hugged. We both started to cry. The first words out of her mouth were, "You were my best friend. I have not found another best friend in thirty eight years."

For the next ninety minutes we shared innermost feelings that we have not said to anyone else. What could have been a superficial 'catching up' (how many children do you have, etc) became a soul stirring pouring out of the roller coaster of our lives. It was as though we were still in high school, where our lives were shared with such intensity, that sometimes we felt we were in each other's minds.

She asked me what happened. Why did we lose track of each other? I said in those days, with no email, she moved to Israel and I stayed behind. It was harder to work at staying in touch; calls were prohibitively expensive then, and it could take two weeks to get an aerogramme. It was just easier to let things drop and occasionally hear about her from mutual friends. Life moves on, the everyday routines take over, and slowly the relationship faded away.

That was the easy answer. The deeper answer was probably that maintaining a relationship was hard work. It meant giving (and taking) without taking away from my husband. In the early phases of marriage, you don't want to share yourself with anyone else; by the time you realize that sometimes you could use another shoulder to lean on, they aren't so readily available anymore.

Her sister-in law walked in. She looked up and said, "This is my best friend but we haven't spoken in thirty eight years." Her sister in law said, "Doesn't seem to have changed. You quite obviously are not having any trouble talking to each other now!"

To the outside world looking in, we must have looked somewhat strange – two women , well into their fifties, sitting on the floor like children, whispering and giggling, nodding their heads as one, hugging and sobbing. "Are you happy?" she asked.

Neither one of us had been very happy as teenagers nor was the question asked lightly. "I think I am, though I am not always sure what happy means. But when I hold my grandchildren and all seems right with the world, I think that means I am happy." She smiled and said how she too, finds an inner happiness when holding her grandchildren.

"You were my best friend. I have not found another best friend in thirty eight years"We could have sat like that for hours. But it was Thursday night and I had to go home and prepare Shabbat for children and grandchildren, and she had to comfort an aging, confused mother. We exchanged emails and a commitment to not let thirty eight more years pass like this, and I took my leave.

I can't say I have ever walked out of a shiva house, a house of mourning, with a smile on my face. But this shiva house and this shiva call were like no other I had ever been to before. I left smiling at a renewed friendship and the promise of long email conversations and shared confidences for many years to come.