Originally published Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 06:00a.m.

There’s those friends who have been by your side since you were in diapers, those you met in school in your second grade class, or those you meet in a pen pal service 40 years ago.

Imagine being part of someone’s life every step of the way through a pen pal service. Going through each others lives through an exchange of handwritten letters for years. Being there through paper and ink while the other is getting married, having children, through holidays and other special events. But never meeting, until nearly 40 years later.

Michelle Lewis and Lori Cavanaugh didn’t know 39 years ago that they would still be in each other’s lives after submitting their information through a pen pal service that would air on TV.

Lewis was encouraged by her aunt at the time to take part in the pen pal service. They had to send in their information and would get matched with another person.

“Next thing I know I got a card that Lori wrote,” Lewis said.

Cavanaugh was encouraged to join the pen pal service because she loved to write. Her family members knew she had an interest in write so they suggested the pen pal service.

Those who participated in the service would receive the information of their pen pal with their address, age, and interests. After receiving their information, the writing began.

As their friendship was beginning to flourish, Lewis was living in St. Paul, Minnesota and Cavanaugh was in Delaware. Since the first letter, they knew they would be good friends.

As they were growing up, they would talk about family vacations, send each other Christmas cards, photos, and tell each other things they couldn’t tell anyone else. As their separate lives started they would take long periods of time to write to each other but they still managed to make time.

When social media began to flourish, they ended up finding each other on MySpace and eventually on Facebook. The letters didn’t come as often but their friendship was still going.

In May, Lewis decided to take a trip from Minnesota with her husband to the western part of the country. That’s when she decided to pay a surprised visit to Cavanaugh in Golden Valley.

“I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to act,” Cavanaugh said when she saw Lewis at her door.

Before Lewis’ big surprise she was leaving subtle hints on her Facebook page saying where she was going on her trip.

“I was dropping (hints) like ‘where I’m going it’s going to be so hot it’s going to suck like a Hoover vacuum,’” Lewis said.

With the help of some of Cavanaugh’s friends and her son, Lewis was able to make the surprise happen. She surprised her by handing her a card regarding Cavanaugh losing her dog a few weeks ago.

“It’s like she walked out of the computer,” Cavanaugh said. “She’s live in my living room.”