This is the story of two unlikely best friends Chris Salvatore, 31, and Norma Cook, 89. Their friendship started long before Nora became terminally ill but it was during her final days that they became completely inseparable. Chris couldn’t bear the thought of Norma being alone in her apartment even though she lived just across from him, so he asked her to move in. Here’s how their story went.
It All Started With An Unlikely Meeting
Chris, a Hollywood actor, and singer likely didn’t expect to form such a close bond with someone as old as his grandmother. Norma was once an anterior decorated and now lived in the same apartment complex as Chris, just across the hall. She used to wave to Chris from her Kitchen window as he left his apartment.
Finally one day he decided to ask her if he could come in to chat. In an interview with The Today Show he explained: “she just seemed so sweet, she offered me a glass of champagne, and it was like this immediate friendship. ”
That was over five years ago.
It Was Like Fate
It doesn’t matter how far along you are in life, sometimes there’s no denying that some people come in and out of your life for a reason, almost like fate. When this pair met, they had no idea how much they needed each other. Chris remembers going through a breakup at the exact time he met Norma: “I was depressed and I would sit and talk to her for hours. Just knowing she was there and listening to me made me feel better, she was able to help me through some dark times.”
That first meeting led to the duo hanging out every day, cooking together over endless conversations. They say that they became best friends immediately and loved to talk about fashion and food most of all.
Norma’s Cancer Was Taking Her Life Quickly
Behind the scenes, Norma was battling leukemia. She was diagnosed 10 years prior. She was in and out of the hospital all the time, sometimes six times in one year. During her last visit, her doctor gave her the news that she only had a few months to live. She refused to do more cancer treatments and didn’t want to be placed in a facility.
The doctor told her that she couldn’t go home unless she had 24-hour home care. The thing is Norma didn’t have any family in the area. She had been divorced since she was 43 and didn’t have any children. So Chris, decided he wanted to step in and become her primary caretaker. He to make her feel “so loved” every day.
Passing On Peacefully
Chris felt like being in Norma’s life was his calling and purpose in life. He knew that with her health rapidly declining, she may need a lot of assistance even if she didn’t have a lot of time left. But, Chris considered her his “soulmate and bestie” and taking care of her was his priority.
Chris explains: “now it’s my job to make her feel comfortable and at peace and not lonely, I’m giving her a gift of passing on and being at peace and having a good time in her last few months.”
The Power Of A Community
There were still a few steps left before Chris could bring Norma home. First, he had to become Norma’s power of attorney and primary caretaker. Then he needed to find a way to support himself and Norma, as well as Norma’s expensive medical expenses. After all Norma’s home care was not covered by his insurance.
So he started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the necessary costs. He used his growing popular social media platform to share the hashtag MyNeighborNorma where his followers could get a glance of their friendship and help support Norma’s care. The fund has accumulated over $77,000 to date, showing how much of an impact a community can have when it comes together.
From Best Friend To Caretaker
It only took a month for Chris to raise enough money to bring Norma home to his apartment from the hospice. But, there was still one more obstacle he had to figure out. He had to learn how to switch over from being her best friend to her caregiver full-time. He wanted to make sure she would live her final days in comfort and good company but Chris still was by no means a trained nurse.
Reflecting back he explains tearfully: “being her best friend for the past four years, you create this bond, and then switching to being someone’s caregiver, well it becomes hard to disassociate the emotional bond you have with someone as you’re seeing them die in front of your eyes.”
Still, Chris stayed strong for Norma because he didn’t want her to see him be upset.
Age Is Just A Number
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Not everyone understands their friendship and that’s okay. They’re both aware of the age gap but to that, they say “age is just a number!” In Chris, Norma found the grandson she never had and in Norma, Chris found the grandmother he had once lost.
“It’s funny because you think you don’t have stuff in common with someone who is 89,” says Chris “but age doesn’t matter, it’s not something to hold you back from connecting to someone. You never know who could become your dearest friend.” We as humans have an incredible capacity to form connections and meaningful bonds. Our soulmates don’t always come in the form of lovers. We find them along the way in family, friends, and even neighbors.
Death is quite a scary concept for most. No one knows for sure what happens when we die so there’s no way to prepare for it. Yet, Norma isn’t living in denial. She’s aware of her inevitable and looming death and she accepts it. In a way, she’s already made peace with it.
Chris remembered how Norma used to talk about Death like she was aware of it but she didn’t let that get her down. The pair was just trying to spend as much time together as they could because even there were some bad days, they at least still had each other.
We’re All Capable Of Kindness And Impact
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What Chris did wasn’t easy. He was putting himself in a position where he would be the one to have to find Norma dead one day. He put his life on hold so he could take care of her. But, he doesn’t regret any of it. If anything he wishes more people would show the same kindness to their friends and neighbors. Imagine the way we could all change each other’s lives.
During her final days, Chris couldn’t help but feel lucky to have her: ” She’s changed my life. she’s made me a kinder more compassionate person. I feel honored to spend her last moments with her…I want others to be inspired to be more kind to strangers and neighbors you may see who may seem different than you…Norma taught me that, and I want others to learn from her. Kindness heals and we’re all on this planet together. When you light a lamp for someone else it brightens your own path.”
Norma Has Now Passed
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Unfortunately, since Chris’ story was first discovered, Norma passed away. Her loss was felt not only by Chris but by the whole community who had grown to love, admire and support their friendship. On the morning of his passing, Chris shared this heartfelt goodbye with his community
“I wish my Norma was still here in this physical world but she lives forever in my heart. It’s been really difficult not having our daily talks and hearing her sound words of advice. Grief turned into isolation, anxiety, and depression and I’m still learning to cope… Life isn’t always easy but I’m grateful for all the love that I have been given in this lifetime. I’m grateful I got to spend those last 5 years with her. Gratitude can be very healing. ”
What Would You Have Done?
Chris felt like Norma was his purpose. He sensed a calling and he followed it and now he has no regrets. Are you still searching for your life purpose? Tap into the 4,000-year-old science e of Numerology to find out what it reveals about you.