Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Gift of Love

I wrote A Gift of Love because people kept asking me to do so, telling me that there was a great need for it. Perhaps it was their parents who were dying, or another family member, or a close friend, and they needed to know what they could do for their loved ones in those last weeks, days, or hours. They knew that I had worked with Mother Teresa as a volunteer in her homes for the dying, and had twelve years’ experience in what they were facing perhaps for the first time, and asked me to pass on some of my knowledge.

In 1979, when I saw a magazine photograph of one of Mother Teresa’s volunteers carrying a dying man in his arms, I knew in an instant that I had to become a part of this work. It was certainly not a religious calling, but a simple calling to give something of myself to others. I felt that if I could comfort one dying person, my life would have had purpose.

It took me ten years to enter the world that I had only seen a glimpse of in that magazine article. When I did, it was during the worst of the AIDS crisis in the United States, in a hospice called “Gift of Love” in New York City, which had been opened by Mother Teresa in 1985. It had room for fifteen dying men, most of them from a world I had never known?a world of drugs, poverty, and crime, a far cry from the privileged life of châteaus in Europe that I had been brought up in, and later on, the world of show business in which I had been able to fulfill some of my greatest dreams.

In the years to come, these men, who were dying of AIDS and had never been given much of a chance in life, taught me not only about the many ways to help others die in an atmosphere of peace and love, but also how to enjoy the richness of living our lives fully until the very end.

Whenever Mother Teresa asked me to sing for her on her little terrace in Calcutta, I never said “No.” And when I asked her to help me write about caring for loved ones in their last days, she also never said “No.” What a blessing—thank you, Mother!

If I can reach just one person who is flailing around in panic and fear while trying to help a loved one at the end of their life, my journey will have been worthwhile.

My Review

I only know the name Mother Teresa. Yet, I don't really know anything about just who, Mother Teresa is or who Tony Cointreau is for that matter either. However, after reading this book all I know that they are both great people with big hearts and lots of love and kindness to share for all. Oh and that Mr. Cointreau is a great storyteller, who is a quick thinker on his feet. The stories he told, I was fascinated by them as well.

Each chapter in this book focuses on different people or lessons to be shared. I felt connected to each and every person that I met in this book. From those dying to the woman who's daughter lived just down the block and could not be bothered to visit her. It was as if Mr. Cointreau's Aunt Tata was my Aunt as well. This is the type of book to treasure but learn from as well. We need these lessons, especially now in this present time period.

I thought I would share a few quotes by Mother Teresa:

"Be kind, show kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile...to all who suffer and are lonely, give always a happy smile."

"We can do no great things-only small things with great love,"

Author Bio:

Tony Cointreau, author of A Gift of Love: Lessons Learned from My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa, is a member of the French liqueur Cointreau family. He was born into a life of wealth and privilege, growing up among the rich and famous. His maternal grandmother was an opera star, and Tony’s own voice led him to a successful international singing career. His paternal heritage put him on the Cointreau board of directors. But he felt a need for something more meaningful in his life—and his heart led him to Calcutta and Mother Teresa. 
Tony’s childhood experiences—an emotionally remote mother; a Swiss nanny who constantly told him, “Mother only loves you when you’re perfect;” an angry, bullying older brother; and a sexually predatory fourth-grade schoolteacher—convinced him that the only way to be loved is to be perfect. He set out on a lifelong quest for a loving mother figure and unconditional love, and he found it with Mother Teresa and her work. She became another mother for him, as he describes in his memoir, Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa... and Me.
Tony volunteered in Mother Teresa’s hospices for twelve years, learning to give unconditional love, and helping more than one hundred people while they were dying.
For more information please visit http://tonycointreau.com
Mother Teresa's Legacy of Unconditional Love: The Most Powerful Force in the World
Excerpt from A Gift of Love: Lessons Learned From My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa by Tony Cointreau
While growing up, I always felt that love was conditional. Was I perfect enough to please the grown-ups? Was every hair in place? Were my clothes spotless, my schoolwork beyond reproach? Did I say the right thing, that didn’t sound childish?
I could go on and on with my dilemma of needing to be perfect in order to feel worthy of being loved. It was an illusion that I had somehow been conditioned to believe in—a very physically and emotionally exhausting way to go through childhood and beyond. The irony is that I knew from the start how to love others, but did not feel secure in the fact that I could receive it as well. No doubt my aunt Tata and my maternal grandmother, Mémé, saw through my obsession with my own perfection, but were powerless to change the patterns of daily life in my home which had created the monster. I do remember Tata trying to build up my confidence by telling me that there was nothing I could possibly do, including murder, that could change her love for me.
And Mémé always wrote to me from Boston on my birthday that I was the most wonderful little boy in the world. Those were momentary panaceas that, in the long run, were not enough to change my neurotic need to feel that I really was good enough to be loved unconditionally. For years I searched for that love and found it in bits and pieces by attaching myself to “other mothers”— women who cared for me as though I were their child. Lee Lehman was the first, when I was thirteen. Then came Ethel Merman, when I was eighteen. Both relationships lasted a lifetime. But my final healing was from the little Albanian nun, Mother Teresa
I had been immediately drawn to this tiny, bent-over woman and her legion of Missionaries of Charity Sisters when I first saw that magazine picture of a volunteer in the Home for the Dying in Calcutta carrying a man in his arms—a man he had undoubtedly never known before. This volunteer had been able to love the man without reservation simply because he was a human being in need of comfort and care in the last hours of his life.
That was the legacy Mother Teresa was giving to the world and I knew immediately that it contained something I had been seeking my whole life. I didn’t care what religion she practiced. I just knew that being around her would be a giant step in healing the child within me that had never felt perfect enough to deserve the love she offered. If I were given the chance to freely give that kind of love, I knew I would be able to receive it as well.
I believe it to be the most powerful force in the world.
The above is an excerpt from the book A Gift of Love: Lessons Learned From My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa by Tony Cointreau. Copyright © 2014 Tony Cointreau

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