This young man has invited his dying 89-year-old neighbor to live with him to keep her company in her final days.

The story of two unlikely best friends

This is the story of two unlikely best friends, Chris Salvatore, 31, and Norma Cook, 89.

Their friendship began long before Norma 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 right across from him, so he offered to have her move in with him.

Here’s how their story unfolded.

chrissalvatore / Instagram

Chris, a Hollywood actor and singer, probably didn’t expect to form such a close bond with someone as old as his grandmother. Norma used to be an interior decorator and lived in the same apartment complex as Chris, just across the hallway. She used to wave to Chris from her kitchen window when he left his apartment.

Eventually, one day he decided to ask her if he could come in and chat. In an interview with The Today Show, he explained: “She seemed so kind, she offered me a glass of champagne, and that’s how our friendship began.”

That was more than five years ago.

Chrissalvatore / Instagram

No matter where you are in life, sometimes it’s undeniable that certain people come and go in your life for a reason, almost as if it’s fate. When this couple met, they didn’t know they would need each other so much. Chris remembers going through a breakup right around the time he met Norma: “I was depressed and would sit and talk to her for hours. Just knowing she was there and listening to me helped me feel better, she was able to help me through a dark time.”

This first encounter led the duo to see each other every day, cook together, and have endless conversations. They say they immediately became close friends and loved talking about fashion and food above all else.

Chrissalvatore / Instagram

In secret, Norma was battling leukemia. She was diagnosed 10 years prior and would constantly go back and forth to the hospital, sometimes as many as six times a year. During her last visit, her doctor told her she only had a few months left to live. She refused to undergo any more cancer treatments and didn’t want to be placed in a facility.

The doctor told her she couldn’t go back home unless she had 24/7 home care. The problem was that Norma didn’t have any family in the area. She had been divorced since the age of 43 and had no children. So Chris decided to step in and become her main support, so she could feel “loved” every day.

Chrissalvatore / Instagram

Chris felt that being in Norma’s life was his calling and purpose in life. He knew that with her health declining rapidly, she would need a lot of help even though there wasn’t much time left. But Chris considered her his “soul mate and best friend” and taking care of her was his priority.

Chris explains:

“It was my job to make her feel comfortable and at peace and not alone, I was giving her the opportunity to feel good and be at peace and have good times in her last months.”

Chrissalvatore / Instagram

There were still a few steps left before Chris could bring Norma home. Firstly, he had to become Norma’s guardian and primary caregiver. Then he had to find a way to provide for his own and Norma’s needs, as well as the expensive medical costs for Norma’s care at home, which were not covered by her insurance.

He launched a GoFundMe page to collect funds for the necessary expenses. He used his increasingly popular social media platform to share the hashtag #MyNeighborNorma where his followers could get a glimpse of their friendship and help support Norma’s care. He has raised over $70,000 to date, demonstrating how powerful a community can be when it comes together.

Chrissalvatore / Instagram

It took Chris only a month to raise enough money to bring Norma back to his apartment. But there was still one more obstacle he had to overcome. He had to learn to transition from being a best friend to a full-time caregiver. He wanted to ensure that she would live her final days in comfort and good company, but Chris was still not a qualified nurse.

Despite the emotional difficulty, Chris remained strong for Norma because he did not want her to see him upset. Looking back on it, he tearfully explains: “Being her best friend for four years, we created this bond, and then moving into a caregiver role, it becomes hard to separate the emotional bond that you have with someone as you see them dying in front of your eyes.”

Chrissalvatore / Instagram

It is normal for not everyone to understand their friendship. They are 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 have nothing in common with someone who is 89,” says Chris “but age doesn’t matter, it’s not something that prevents you from connecting with someone. You never know who could become your dearest friend. As human beings, we have an incredible ability to create strong 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.”



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A post shared by Chris Salvatore (@chrissalvatore)

Death is a pretty scary concept for most of us. No one knows for sure what happens when we die, so there is no way to prepare for it. Yet, Norma was not living in denial. She was aware of her inevitable and imminent death and she accepted it. In a way, she had already made peace with it.

Chris remembers that Norma used to talk about death as if she was aware of it, but he didn’t let that discourage them. The duo just tried to spend as much time together as possible because even on bad days, they supported each other.

chrissalvatore / Instagram

What Chris did was not easy. He put himself in a position where he would be the only one to find Norma dead one day. He put his life on hold in order to take care of her. But, he has no regrets. If he wishes for something, it is only that more people show the same kindness to their friends and neighbors. Imagine how we could all change the lives of others.

During her final days, Chris couldn’t help but feel lucky to have her by his side.

chrissalvatore / Instagram

It is unfortunate that since Chris’s story was discovered, Norma has passed away. Her loss was heartbreaking not only for Chris but also for the entire community who had come to love, admire, and support their friendship. On the morning of her passing, Chris shared this heartfelt goodbye with his community:

“I wish my Norma could still be here in this world, but she lives on forever in my heart. I have really struggled not having our daily conversations and not hearing her little pieces of advice. Grief has turned into isolation, anxiety, and depression and I am still learning how to deal with it… Life is not always easy but I am grateful for all the love I have received in this life. I am grateful for being able to spend these past 5 years with her. Gratitude can be very healing.”

Written by Matt

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