Young Man Invites 89-Year-Old Neighbor To Live With Him So She Is Not Alone in Her Last Days

It’s amazing how one small act of kindness can change someone’s life, and the most unlikely pairs can form the strongest of bonds. Such was the case with then 26-year-old Chris Salvatore and his 84-year-old neighbor Norma Cook. When Salvatore moved into his new apartment in West Hollywood, CA back in 2012, he had no clue that the curious elderly woman staring at him from her kitchen window in the complex’s courtyard would become one of his best friends. After a quick greeting through the screened opening, he asked if he could come inside and say hello. Once Cook agreed, the rest was history.

Cook lived alone with her beloved cat, Hermes, who she immediately introduced to Salvatore. And the two quickly bonded over her favorite champagne and neighborhood gossip. Over the course of their almost five-year friendship, they would share many precious memories. From pizza nights to lunches out on the town, birthday parties, holidays, and endless laughs. Over time, they grew to feel more like family as, for Cook, Salvatore became like “the grandson she never had.” And he too considered her a grandmother.

That’s why, when Cook’s health took a turn for the worse at 89, 31-year-old Salvatore did what any good grandson would do and stepped in to assist with her care. She had been battling leukemia for years, but towards the end of 2016, she became grievously ill and had to spend two months in the hospital fighting pneumonia and breathing complications. With her rapidly deteriorating health, the doctors determined that it would no longer be safe for the elderly woman to live on her own without 24-hour care. So, to help cover her medical expenses and the costs of her in-home care, Salvatore started a GoFundMe which raised more than $50,000. However, with no children of her own or any close relatives nearby, Cook's only other option was to go into a facility.

“I just couldn’t do that to someone who is like my own grandmother,” Salvatore said at the time. Instead, he offered to have his ailing neighbor move in with him. Cook was absolutely thrilled by the invitation, and the transition seemed only natural since he would spend most days visiting her apartment anyway. “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,” Salvatore explained about the arrangement. “Moving her in…it feels as though it was meant to be all along. It’s really fulfilling to be there for her.”

Once Cook moved in, bringing along her dear Hermes, they quickly developed a routine. Salvatore would cook for her, and the two would spend time together on the couch watching the news, talking, drinking Champagne, and eating peanuts. Though the doctors had told them it would be a miracle if Cook lived past the holidays, the two were able to share a few more precious months, even ringing in the New Year together.

When Cook finally passed away in February of 2017, Salvatore was heartbroken. But the bond he shared with the elderly woman has stuck with him all these years. “I feel her watching over me and it is a happy feeling,” He expressed at the time of her death. “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.”

Years later, Salvatore added to the sentiment with a post commemorating the four-year anniversary of Cook’s passing in February 2021: “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.” And the love and care that Salvatore and Cook shared with one another is a truly shining example that just a little kindness really does go a long way.