When Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb joined forces on TODAY 11 years ago, they had no way to know they were on course to become so much more than co-anchors.
Today, they're best friends.
And though there's no end in sight for that relationship, their days of sitting (and raising a glass) next to each other on the fourth hour of the show are coming to an end this Friday.
So before they say goodbye to their on-air partnership, they're taking a moment to say how much they've meant — and continue to mean — to each other.
"God brought Hoda into my life for all kinds of different reasons," Kathie Lee said in an interview that aired on TODAY Thursday morning. "I was supposed to learn from her. She was supposed to learn from me. We were supposed to share life together."
Hoda is equally convinced that their bond is a kismet — and she had an inkling that it might be from the very beginning.
"(Kathie Lee) totally jumped into my life in a way that I had never experienced before," she recalled. "She stepped into it, and I was transfixed by her when we met. I don't know if you've ever had that chemistry where you connect with someone like that. I had it, and it was a feeling I'd never had before — that kind of intensity."
Noting that intense bonds often "can't last," Hoda added, "But this did. It's amazing. I remember thinking, 'How is it possible that this level continues?'"
As for KLG, she even questioned how their bond was possible at all.
"I never dreamed that I could get another best type of friend at my age — with already so many people taking up the pie," the 65-year-old said. "And I realized that the heart is not a pie that can be divvied up into just so many slices. The heart expands. It just gets bigger and makes more room for people in it. She just fills such a huge part of my heart now. And always will."
While Hoda, 54, also believed she was past the point where "you could make lifelong friends," she now knows it's not only something that can happen — it's something that can shape your life.
"This has been the most significant period in my life, I think," Hoda said. "I had to wait till my late 40s and 50s to live the best part of my life, and she's a huge reason that everything started going right. ... I feel like good things kept happening. I don't know if it's her or the karma or being around it. I don't know what it is."
But she knows how significant it is.
"I got to do something that only a couple of people on Earth get to do. I got to sit next to Kathie Lee Gifford," Hoda said of her pal.
"I hope she knows how much she mattered to me, just how much she mattered," Hoda continued. "That so many things in my life changed because of her presence. I mean, look, I do know God put her in my life at the right time. He really did."
And, at least off-air, Kathie Lee will remain there.
"I hope she knows how much I love her," Kathie Lee said about Hoda. "When I love, I love with my entire being, as long as I'm here with a pulse. That's how I love, and that hurts. That kind of love hurts, but I can't imagine living one moment of my life without it."