There’s no telling where a friendship might spark. Maybe you hit it off with another mom while picking up the little ones or at a yoga class, and bam —instant friendship!
It went something like this for Los Angeles neighbors Chris Salvatore, 31, and Norma Cook, 89. Four years ago, singer/actor Salvatore moved into Cook’s building. Salvatore told PEOPLE that Cook, a former interior decorator, would wave goodbye to him when he would leave his apartment. One day, he decided to stop by and sit with her. She offered him a glass of champagne and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
Salvatore says that at the time he was depressed after going through a break-up and he would sit and talk to Cook for hours on end. “Just knowing she was there and listening to me made me feel better, she was able to help me through some dark times,” Salvatore explains.
When Cook’s health started rapidly declining last year after a 10-year battle with leukemia, her “best friend” went above and beyond to make sure he was there for her. According to PEOPLE, Cook has no family in the area and no children or partner to rely on. Which is why Salvatore has stepped up to be her primary care-giver.
Told by doctors that she only has a few months left to live, Cook was adamant that she wanted to spend her last days at home with her cat, Hermes. With no money saved up and living on a monthly social security check, Salvatore started a Go Fund Me Account to help raise money for her living expenses. He had built up a following on social media with his posts about their friendship, using #MyNeighborNorma, so it was no wonder that his campaign was wildly successful. He quickly raised over $54.6k, which was enough for weekly in-home hospice care.
“I love her, she’s my best friend. I would do anything for her,” Salvatore told PEOPLE. “I believe that human kindness is a magical thing and can heal what doctors can’t.”
Eventually, Salvatore moved Cook into his apartment to live with him and “spend as much time together as we can.” It’s important to Salvatore that Cook has someone close by to care for her and help her enjoy every minute she has left. But, naturally, watching someone you love deteriorate in front of your eyes has taken an emotional toll.
“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,” he told PEOPLE. “It’s really challenging, I’ve tried to stay strong, because I don’t want her to see me upset.”
While this is a difficult time for Salvatore, he has no regrets and feels Cook has had an incredible impact on his life and has helped shape who he is as a person. “I’m so lucky to have her,” he says. “She’s changed my life. She’s made me a kinder more compassionate person. I feel honored to spend her last moments with her.”
He also wants others to be inspired by their story of love and friendship and hopes that by speaking out, people will be encouraged to “be more kind to strangers and neighbors you may see who may seem different than you.”
h/t: PeopleMore On