As Norma Cook, 89, spends out her dying days, her friends Chris Salvatore, 31, and Norma Cook, are inseparable.
The dynamic couple have a four-year history of friendship and are neighbors in West Hollywood, California. Salvatore volunteered to be Cook’s primary caregiver after her physicians this year determined that she needed round-the-clock at-home care.
With only a few months to live after being diagnosed with leukemia, Cook, Salvatore is determined to make her feel “so loved” every day.
Salvatore claims that the woman has chosen not to undergo cancer treatment. “Now it’s my responsibility to ensure that she feels secure, at ease, and not alone.
“I’m giving her the gift of dying peacefully and enjoying her final few months,” the speaker said.
When Salvatore moved into Cook’s apartment building four years ago, he first met her. Cook is an interior decorator. Cook, who lived directly across the hall, would wave to the actor-singer as he left his flat from her kitchen window.
“Can I come in and chat? I asked one day. She really appeared so kind,” Salvatore explains. She handed me a drink of champagne, and we struck up an instant connection.
“I would sit and chat to her for hours at a time since I was going through a breakup and was miserable. She was able to support me through some difficult periods just by being there and listening to me.
The unusual duo started spending time together every day, chatting, cooking, and playing with Hermes, Cook’s cat.
Salvatore claims, “We instantly became the best of friends.” We immediately connected as LGBT people since she had many homosexual friends who tragically died during the AIDS crisis; our main topics of conversation are clothing and food.
After physicians informed Cook, age 89, that she barely had months to live, Salvatore took over as Cook’s power of attorney and primary caregiver. When her insurance could not cover the essential expenditures of at-home care, he created a GoFundMe campaign to gather money for them.
Salvatore explains, “I was called to do this for her. “I urged anybody who appreciated watching our friendship to contribute since we had amassed a tiny following because I used a hashtag for videos and photographs I shared of us under #MyNeighborNorma.”
Salvatore earned enough money in one month to bring Cook, who is in hospice care, into his apartment for the remainder of her life.
“Being her closest friend for the previous four years, you have this link, and then moving to being someone’s carer, it’s difficult to separate the emotional bond you have with someone as you see them die in front of your eyes,” he adds through tears. “It’s quite difficult; I’ve tried to be strong because I don’t want her to see me unhappy.”
Cook can’t stand and needs a breathing machine, but he’s still “a firebrand,” according to Salvatore.
“That’s one of the things I like about her,” he continues. “She’s a spunky character who says it like it is.” Norma’s bright, quick-witted. If she doesn’t like my attire, she’ll make a comment about them. That’s simply her personality, and it’s one-of-a-kind, fantastic, and contagious.”
Despite her infirmities, Cooks is “happy,” according to Salvatore, and she is eating and gaining weight.
“She’s all there in her thoughts,” he adds, “she’s aware of mortality, she talks about it, she’s good with it.” “She refers to me as the ‘grandson she never had,’ and we’re simply trying to spend as much time as we can together.”
Hospice nurses come to Salvatore’s flat twice a week to see Cook, who has been given two months or fewer to live.
“Norma says to me, ‘I don’t want you to be the one who discovers my death,'” he says. “It pains me since I will be the one to locate her.” I don’t want her to believe I’ll be crushed; I’m trying to be strong for her and assure her that I’ll be OK, but it’s difficult.
“I’m really fortunate to have her. She’s transformed my life. She’s changed me into a gentler, more sympathetic person. I consider myself fortunate to have spent her final moments with her.
Salvatore believes that his extraordinary friendship with Cook would inspire others to meet new and different individuals.
“I want everyone to be motivated to be friendly to strangers and neighbors who may appear different than you,” he says. “Norma taught me that, and I’d like others to learn from her as well.” Kindness heals, and we’re all here together. “Lighting a lantern for someone else illuminates your own path.”
“Age is simply a number,” he adds.
“It’s weird because you believe you have nothing in common with someone who is 89,” Salvatore continues. “However, age isn’t anything that should prevent you from bonding with someone. You never know who could become your best buddy.”