82-year-old Dan Peterson lost his wife a year and a half ago. They had met late in life and were deeply in love, and losing her sent him into a dark, depressed place.
That is, until a 4-year-old stranger turned his world upside down.
After his wife died, he questioned his purpose in life.
One day, Peterson was shopping at his local grocery store, a job he loathes.
At that time, Peterson had been buried in grief for six months. He hadn’t shaved, his hair was shaggy—everything about him that day said “grumpy old man, do not approach me!”
But someone unexpected was waiting for him just around the corner of the canned vegetable aisle.
That someone was 4-year-old Norah.
A grumpy old man meets his match.
Norah, riding in the front of her mom’s grocery cart, reached out for Peterson as they began to pass each other. You can clearly see them in the store’s security camera footage.
Norah’s mom, Tara, said it was pretty embarrassing.
“She said, ‘Hi, old person, it’s my birthday today!” And then asked Peterson for a hug!
“I said, a ‘hug?!'” Peterson recalled. “Absolutely!”
It all started with that first hug.
“She zeroed in on him like a missile,” Tara said. “Like she didn’t want anything from him. She just wanted to make him feel loved and give him a hug.”
Norah got her hug, and the grocery shoppers went on their way.
A little while later, Norah asked her mom to take a picture of her with Peterson, her new friend, for her birthday. So the mother and daughter went to look for Peterson again.
She had broken the barrier into his heart.
Tara went on to explain how emotional the experience seemed to strike Peterson in the moment. “His little lip quivered and he was teared up, and it was just sweet,” she said.
“You don’t know,” Peterson told Norah and her mom. “This is the first time for quite a while that I’ve been this happy.”
In the next few days after that initial greeting, Norah kept asking about her new friend “Mr. Dan,” while Tara posted the photo and the story on Facebook, and it went viral. A woman commented that she knew Peterson, and soon Tara was able to get the elderly man’s contact information.
Today, Norah visits about once a week, and every time they get together, it starts with the same greeting that they began with—a hug.
It’s a bond that defies explanation.
Peterson does have grandkids of his own, but they are all grown now. Norah also has grandparents, but her mom said the bond between the two is unique and mysterious.
“She fell asleep holding a picture of him!” said Tara.
For Dan Peterson, it’s equally miraculous, but far from a mystery. He considers Norah to be, quite literally, his little angel.
“She opened me to a love that I didn’t know existed,” Peterson said.
His life has a renewed purpose.
When Peterson’s wife died, it left him feeling as if he had no purpose in life. If you ask him if he feels like he has a purpose now, the answer is an emphatic, “Of course! Norah.”
“Watching her grow up,” Peterson concluded. “I know I made room in my heart for a lot more.”
Watch the video below: