Mother Teresa Legacy of Unconditional Love

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Excerpt from A Gift of Love: Lessons Learned From My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa by Tony Cointreau

Mother Teresa Legacy of Unconditional LoveWhile 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

Mother Teresa Legacy of Unconditional LoveTony 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 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



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