Update, 2/16/2017: Chris Salvatore took to Instagram yesterday to confirm, with eloquence and heartbreak, that his roommate and best friend, Norma Cook, passed away yesterday.
Cook and Salvatore touched the nation's heart with their story: When Cook, 89, became too sick with leukemia to live in her own in her apartment (which was across the hall from Salvatore's), her 31-year-old neighbor took her in. He did more than that, though — he gave Cook (who was a sassy, brave dame to the very end) the son she never had.
"Norma is now resting peacefully in the eternal, and while she may no longer physically be with us, her spirit will continue to fill the hearts of so many people," Salvatore wrote on Instagram, where he updated the world on her last days.
About two weeks ago, Cook lost her ability to walk, which "crushed her spirit," wrote Salvatore — she had ordered pink hats to prepare for the next Women's March just days earlier. This was also a difficult time for Salvatore. Norma was letting go.
She slipped in and out of consciousness in the days following. Salvatore cherished her lucid moments, when she told him, with clarity, what she was seeing during her last days. "This morning as Norma was in and out of sleep, she told me that she remembers me from a previous life where we were lovers," he wrote on Twitter.
Salvatore believes that his experience with Norma — being able to care for someone in her last hour — altered the way he views love. "Perhaps Norma's lasting legacy is that her story helped the world to see the true meaning of love," he wrote on Instagram. "To love another is not about living struggle-free or never experiencing hurt or loss, but to fully and deeply open our hearts to one another without fear."
We'll echo Salvatore's sentiment — rest in the sweetest peace, Norma. We hope that wherever you are, there are unending supplies of peanuts and champagne. Your favorite.
Original, 1/25/2017: Norma Cook, a sassy and stubborn 89-year-old leukemia patient, and Chris Salvatore, a charming 31-year-old actor, have one major thing in common: They live under the same roof.
Their friendship is an unlikely tale — one that is heartbreaking, hilarious, and adorable all at once. Cook and Salvatore had been neighbors and friends for five years, ever since he moved in across from her in their West Hollywood, California, apartment complex. They connected over champagne (Cook's favorite drink) and her youth, and they grew used to seeing each other every day. But when Cook's health took a turn for the worse, she spent two months away from the complex, in the hospital with pneumonia.
Cook beat the pneumonia but was too weak and sick to live on her own. Doctors strongly advised against returning to her apartment, where she'd lived for 30 years, unless she could have around-the-clock care. Knowing what a financial burden that would be, Salvatore created a GoFundMe page last Thanksgiving, quickly raising $50,000. The money made 24-hour care possible for a time, but it eventually wasn't enough to cover Cook's costs. So Salvatore invited her to move in with him.
"She couldn't be happier that I asked," Salvatore told TODAY. "I was over there visiting most days anyway."
Sure, it was the neighborly thing to do — but Salvatore and Cook's relationship goes beyond that of friendly tenants. "She called me the grandson she never had," Salvatore said.
The feeling is most certainly mutual. Before moving in with Salvatore, Cook's only other option was to enter a facility, he explained. "I just couldn't do that to someone who is like my own grandmother," he said.
If you thought their story couldn't get cuter, hold on. What do a young, handsome actor and his cool grandma roommate do all day long? "We always watch the news," Cook told TODAY. "We mostly talk and drink Champagne and eat peanuts."
That's not all Cook and Salvatore do, of course. Taking care of a leukemia patient who has only months more to live certainly requires tremendous effort. Beyond constant care, Salvatore also cooks for Cook. "If he can't make it as an actor, he can make it as a chef," Cook chuckled.
Cook is thriving under Salvatore's care, but the relationship seems to be symbiotic. "Moving her in… it feels as though it was meant to be all along," Salvatore explained. "It's really fulfilling to be there for her."