Nearly a week after Della Reese’s passing at age 86, her “Touched by an Angel” costar Roma Downey is looking back on their close relationship.
Downey, 57, lost her mother just before she turned 11 years old, and Reese stepped in as a mother figure for her. Over time, the two forged a “deep, lasting” bond, with Reese standing by Downey’s side through both happy and sad milestones and life events.
“During the run of ‘Touched by an Angel,’ Della’s only daughter [Deloreese] passed away,” Downey recalled to PEOPLE in a new interview. “Not long after, she took me into her arms and said ‘God is so amazing, baby. I always knew that he brought me into your life because you needed a momma. I just hadn’t realized he brought you into my life because I was going to need a baby girl.’”
The pair went on to remain huge parts of one another’s lives. When Downey welcomed her daughter Reilly, now 21, in 1996, Reese was named her godmother and was present for her baptism. She also officiated Downey’s 2007 marriage to producer Mark Burnett.
“We all love her, and we will all miss her, and of course, we mourn for her,” Downey said. “But we are also so grateful for the time we shared with her. She achieved so much, and she touched the hearts of everyone who knew her.”
When Reese tragically passed away, it was Downey who announced the sad news in a statement:
On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home last evening surrounded by love. She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work, she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people. She was a mother to me, and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on “Touched By an Angel.” I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts. Rest In Peace, sweet angel. We love you.