Elderly people are often consumed by loneliness, and that was the case for Norma Cook, an 84-year-old woman living in West Hollywood. When 26-year-old Chris Salvatore moved in next door, little did she think that they’d become best friends. Their meeting would lead to a 5-year friendship culminating with Salvatore inviting her to live with him as she lived out her final days. It all started after she saw him from her kitchen window. They exchanged greetings before he asked if he could come in and say hello. She welcomed him, starting a 5-year-long friendship, reported My Modern Met.
Cook lived alone with her cat Hermes, who also took to Salvatore pretty fast. Salvatore and Cook often hung out, bonding over their champagne and gossip. Some of their treasured memories include pizza nights, eating out, and going to birthday parties. For Cook, Salvatore was “the grandson she never had.” At the age of 89, Cook fell ill. She was living alone and her life took a turn for the worse. Towards the end of 2016, she was hospitalized with pneumonia and suffered breathing complications. She was also diagnosed with leukemia. She didn’t have any money and the social security check barely covered rent. She was faced with the prospect of losing her home and her cat.
The doctors took the call that it was not safe for her to live alone, and she would be forced to go into a facility to live out her final days. She had no relatives or loved ones she could rely on. Salvatore just couldn’t let it happen. “I just couldn’t do that to someone who is like my own grandmother,” said Salvatore at the time, offering she move in with him. “My apartment was the only place she would have moved. She has strong opinions about where she wants to carry out the rest of her days, and she wants to stay here,” recalled Salvatore. “Moving her in…it feels as though it was meant to be all along. It’s really fulfilling to be there for her.” It wasn’t just about providing a home and critical care for Cook. The costs of the same went way beyond what Salvatore could afford but he still fought to find a way.
He started a GoFundMe campaign to help her. Within seven hours, “Help Norma Pay for 24-hour Home Care” raised over $25,000. Within a month, the campaign raised over $50,000. “I’m so happy I was able to give her this gift of living her last days at home,” said Chris. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through the end of your life at a hospital without your friends or pets. “I never expected to raise $50,000. It was definitely a miracle.” The campaign ended up raising more than $75,000.
Cook moved in with Salvatore along with Hermes, her cat. Salvatore cooked for her, and they spent their time as they had done previously. Drinking champagne, eating peanuts and watching the news. The doctors said she didn’t have long to live, not expecting her to live past the holidays. The pair celebrated New Year together and shared a few more happy memories before she passed away in February 2017. Salvatore was heartbroken but thankful for the time they spent together. “I feel her watching over me and it is a happy feeling,” he said after she passed away, reported TODAY. “She is out of pain and in peace, probably drinking a glass of champagne, dancing, reunited with the many friends that she’s had throughout her life. I am forever a changed man and I thank this magnificent lady for everything she has taught me.”
Earlier this year, on her death anniversary he paid tribute to her and their friendship with a post on Instagram. “Over the years I have read so many wonderful messages about how inspiring my love for my neighbor Norma was, but what truly inspires me is the great capacity she had to love me. When we choose to love another, so many others feel it too. Beautiful, bountiful, blessings bestowed upon those you never knew,” he wrote.