A Gift of Love: Lessons Learned from My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa. Tony Cointreau. Easton Studio Press, LLC. September 2016. 200 pp. ISBN#: 9781632260499.
Tony Cointreau lived his youth with a constant background message, “You must be perfect…” in order to be loved. So when Tony learned of the work Mother Teresa was doing with both sick and poor, it struck him as both too good to be true but also something he desperately had to experience. Unconditional love shared with those hungry in body, mind and spirit!
Tony went to India but was so traumatized by the devastating poverty, he came back to America. Then he volunteered at a Greenwich Village, New York Hospice in 1990, a place specifically dedicated to caring for dying AIDS patient. This was brave work at a time that little was known about the disease and AIDS patients all too frequently died alone and suffering greatly. This book is the story of Tony’s volunteer experiences. Yes, it’s about what he learned and experienced but it’s also an inspiring book for those who want to learn how to “be” with those who are dying, with or without AIDS.
The secrets shared are humbling experiences for both patients and volunteers who come to truly know the richness of listening, touch, sharing music, showing respect, bypassing assumptions, sharing humor no matter how severe a situation, doing whatever needs doing in the given moment, non-judgment, having faith (in something or someone – not necessarily church-oriented), and realizing saints are all around us and in us. These are just a few of the vibrant chapter headings that each contain poignant and powerful scenes exemplifying these virtues.
A hug here and there when it’s the last thing one would normally imagine, sharing a make-believe, exaggerated, funny story with an elderly woman that makes her come alive for the first time in a long time, hugging a person with no visitors, holding a hand to give strength to someone in excruciating pain, avoiding those who would exploit the suffering and neediness of patients, allowing each individual the right to “choose” where and when to die, and so much more.
Believe it or not; this isn’t a sad or saccharine book at all! It’s so full of vibrant hope and peace that it’s a privilege to read it. It certainly applies to every man, woman and child in the world. Mother Teresa was far from the serious person people put on a pedestal but her gift of unconditional love and life permeates every page of this book and of the man she mentored to serve life and thus be served! Moving, inspirational and highly recommended! Messages the reader will never forget and will hopefully live!
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