My best friend lived in the apartment next door. Two years ago the missionaries came to her house and taught her the gospel. Mom and I sat with Lillie while she had the lessons. I soon turned eight, and Dad baptized both of us on the same day. I went to Lillie’s house every day after school. We always had doughnuts and played dress-ups, and we never had fights. Lillie had bright red hair, and she called me Judy even though I told her my name was Jody. She’d forget—I guess that happens sometimes when you’re almost 100 years old.
“Judy,” she’d say, “I’m so-o-o-o hungry. Let’s have a doughnut.” We’d sit down at her kitchen table. Lillie always took one bite of her doughnut and said, “This doughnut is pretty good, but it isn’t quite as good as my husband Marty’s. Did I ever tell you Marty was a baker?
“We had the nicest bakery shop. Marty got up before daybreak and baked the doughnuts; then while he slept, I waited on the customers. But he had a heart attack and died.” Lillie’s eyes filled with tears. “Did I ever show you our wedding picture?” she would ask, wiping away the tears and trying hard to smile.
I nodded my head because she showed it to me all the time. But Lillie would get out her photo album, anyway, and we would look at her pictures.
Every day Lillie asked, “How was school? You must study hard, Judy. I only got to go to the fifth grade. We didn’t have enough money. I needed to work. You are very lucky to get to go to school. Promise me you’ll study hard.”
I’d promise, and then we’d have a doughnut. Sometimes after I finished eating my doughnut and Lillie had told me about the bakery, she’d ask, “Would you like to play my piano?”
“Sure,” I always answered. I would play “I Am a Child of God” or “Book of Mormon Stories.”
“Oh, that’s just beautiful, Judy. This is my brother’s piano, you know. Mama sacrificed so that George could take lessons. He loved to play jazz. He bought this piano before he went to the war. But he died in the war. First George died, then Mama went, and then Marty. …”
I’d hug Lillie.
“I met Marty when I was seventeen. I was wearing a big satin ribbon in the back of my hair. He took me to the World’s Fair. It was in St. Louis, you know. We had to cross the Mississippi River on a ferry. I thought Marty was so handsome! Did I ever tell you that he was a baker?”
Lillie often showed me her certificate for sewing. “So many people liked my sewing that I finally put a sign in my window: Lillie’s Sewing and Alterations. Would you like to see the dresses I designed?”
Soon I’d be prancing around in a velvet evening gown with a pair of white lace gloves and gold glittery shoes. “Now for a hat. You can always tell a lady by her hat,” Lillie would tell me.
I’d add a feathery hat and twirl around.
“You look like a princess,” Lillie would say, clapping her hands.
It was at the end of fifth grade for me when Lillie moved to a nursing home. It was too hard for her to go to church anymore, but sometimes Mom took me to visit her. Lillie would be sitting in a wheelchair. “Oh, Judy, it’s so good to see you! Are you studying hard?” she always asked.
“I brought you some doughnuts, Lillie.” I’d put them on her lap and give her a hug.
“Oh, goody! I’m so-o-o-o hungry! You know, my husband was a baker, and he made the best doughnuts.” After she took a bite, she’d say, “Will you play the piano for me, Judy? George’s piano is in the dining hall.”
So I’d push Lillie to the cafeteria and play Primary songs.
One day she said, “You’ll be as good as George if you keep practicing. I don’t know where George is now, do you? George hasn’t come to see me, and neither has Marty. Where is my Marty?”
I was going to tell her they’d died long ago. Instead, I asked, “Lillie, do you like it here?”
Lillie had fallen asleep.
Every time I saw her after that, she was thinner and paler. “Judy, I’m so glad that you’re still in school. I only went to fifth grade. Judy, where is Marty?”
One day Mom got a phone call from the nursing home. She told me, “Jody, Lillie’s very sick. She wants to see you. It may be hard to see her … ?”
My stomach was in knots as I walked toward Lillie’s room. She looked tiny and frail lying in her bed, and her breathing was raspy. Her hair was white now. She was too sick to get it dyed. Mom and I went over to her bedside. I swallowed hard, then said, “Hello, Lillie—it’s me, Jody.”
“Ju-u-u-u-d-y,” she said, her voice scratchy and quiet. “Hug me,” she whispered.
I leaned over and hugged Lillie. Then I looked around her room. I saw her old dresser that held her dress-up lace gloves. On her nightstand were two books—the Book of Mormon the Elders had given her when she joined the Church and her photo album. Taped to the album cover was a picture of me. I smiled and hugged her again.
Suddenly her breathing was quiet. The nurse listened to Lillie’s heart, then turned to Mom and me and asked us to wait in the hall. Mom put her arms around me. I cried and cried. Finally the nurse came out. “Lillie is gone,” she said. She patted my shoulder and added, “Lillie loved you very much, Jody.”
That evening our bishop came to our house. “Hello, Jody,” he said to me. He shook my hand and then Mom’s and Dad’s. Then he took my hand again and patted it. “I am so sorry about Lillie, Jody. I understand that you were her good friend. I’m wondering if I could ask you a favor?”
Tears fell from my eyes as the bishop continued, “I have been asked to conduct Lillie’s funeral service, and since I’m new to the ward, I don’t know much about her. Would you mind telling me about her, Jody?”
I wiped away my tears and began to smile a little smile as I thought of all the stories I knew about Lillie. I began, “Did you know that Lillie’s husband was a baker?”