Unexpected Friendship: 4-Year-Old Gives Hugs and Purpose to Elderly Widower

When Dan Peterson went to the grocery store only months after his wife’s death, he didn’t want to be there. For Dan, everything was a chore. Most days he spent staring out the window at squirrels. As he admitted tearfully in a recent CBS interview, he was just waiting to die — he had no purpose, no reason to live.

But this day brought something different, for as Dan rounded the corner of the canned vegetable aisle, a little girl reached out to him. “Hi old person!” she said happily, “It’s my birthday!” Surprised, Dan smiled. “Well hello, little lady! How old are you today?” he asked.

Norah’s mom, Tara Wood, said the two chatted for a few minutes then they went their separate ways. But after a few minutes, Norah decided she wanted to get a picture with Dan. “And so they posed together, and then they hugged each other like they were long lost friends,” said Tara. When Norah asked for a hug, Dan was taken aback. “A hug? he said, ‘Absolutely!’”

Tara said Norah “zeroed in on him like a missile,” not asking for anything, just wanting Dan to feel loved and to give him that hug. “It was just sweet,” she said.

Dan laughed at the memory, then teared up again. “I said ‘You don’t know, this is the first time for quite a while that I’ve been this happy.’”

Tara thought that was the end of story. She returned home and posted the photos on Facebook.

The post went viral, but something more miraculous happened. A friend of Dan’s told Tara that Dan’s wife had recently passed away — and it had been a long time since she’d seen him so happy. It was through this friend that she was able to get Dan’s contact information.

When she called Dan, he knew exactly who she was. “[Tara] said, ‘Is this the Dan that talked to the little girl at the grocery store?’ I said, ‘Are you talking about Norah?’” Tara and Norah decided to visit Dan and brought a framed picture of the two at the grocery store, pictures she colored and a bag of candy. Dan promptly placed the pictures on his refrigerator. Mom and daughter have been visiting Dan once a week ever since. They even celebrated Dan’s birthday recently — Norah brought balloons and a giant cupcake.

Norah remains concerned about Dan. “Norah has been worried about Mr. Dan being alone. She wanted to know if we could buy him a dog because dogs make everything better,” said Tara. Dan said that Tara convinced Norah that a real dog might not be a good idea, but one day she brought by a present. “And she had this bag and Norah took out a stuffed puppy for me.”

According to Tara, Norah has helped put Dan’s mind at ease. “He said that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep for the past several months. Sadness and anxiety had made his mind wander at night, but since meeting Norah, he has slept soundly every single night. He said she healed him.”

Dan believes the meeting was by divine intervention and said he feels that God had a hand in putting the two friends together. Tara said the friendship was just meant to be. “Mostly, she just cares about his well-being and his heart. She wants him to be happy … I guess that’s what friends are supposed to do, huh?”

For Dan, the friendship has given him new meaning and a sense of purpose: “Norah. Watching her grow up. If I didn’t have anything else to do the rest of my life, I have her to love.”

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