Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: A GIFT OF LOVE by Tony Cointreau

If you still have gifts to buy for people on your Christmas shopping list – look no further! This book is the perfect gift for everyone.

When I was first offered this book for free in exchange for an honest review, I hesitated. Honestly, I didn’t want to read a book about caregiving at the end of a loved one’s life. It sounded too depressing to me. However, I remembered how much I enjoyed reading Tony Cointreau’s memoir, Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa … and Me, and I decided to give this book a try simply because he’s a fabulous writer.

I’m so glad I took the time to read A Gift of Love, because it’s NOT a book about caring for people who are dying. It’s a book about caring – for everyone.

While A Gift of Love is the title of this book, it is also the name of one of Mother (now Saint) Teresa’s hospices in New York where Tony Cointreau served for more than a decade. Tony came from an affluent background and a successful show business career, but instead of sitting back and relaxing, he chose to get up and get to work – mopping floors, changing adult diapers, and loving people marked as unlovable.

He wrote in the Afterword, “Mother Teresa believed in the simple words of the great teachers such as Jesus and Buddha and lived not a ‘Christian’ life but a Christlike life—two very different things in my eyes. She tried to teach us all the simple philosophy of unconditional love for one another and the importance of being non-judgmental. Oh yes, and above all she wanted us to learn the joy of being of service with our two hands. Very simple and very beautiful. … I will never forget the many wonderful men and women I helped in their final hours of life, and how much more they gave to me than I could ever have given to them” (pages 179-180).

This book was written in such a way that you could either read the entire thing from cover to cover (which I recommend for your first time through the book) or you could pick a topic (such as Touch, Respect, or Humor) from the table of contents and read a single chapter to gain more insight on that specific concept.

The only chapter that felt a little out of place in this book was the one titled “Signs from Beyond.” Now understand, I fully believe in a life after death, and I believe that spirits exist among us, and I believe that some people can see, feel, and hear these spirits. However, this chapter felt disjointed from the others. Maybe it should have been its own book, especially considering Tony went into details of his own experiences with the mysterious realms of other spheres. But nonetheless, it is very common for dying people to see and communicate with the spirits of those who’ve passed on before them … so in that sense, I suppose this chapter had a place within the pages of this book. With that said, I absolutely loved all of the other chapters.

Here are some my favorite nuggets from A Gift of Love:

“None of us has to be a genius to make a difference in someone’s life or death. It takes no great intellect or training. It’s only a question of sincere listening and genuine caring. This can be the final gift from the person who knows you best in the world, or from a total stranger” (page 20).

“The simple gift of music can bring joy, no matter what the human condition” (page 38).

“Whether you are terminally ill or in the best of health, what could be better for your wellbeing than to feel useful to humanity? … Just see how good one simple act of generosity can make you feel—especially generosity of the spirit” (page 72).

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to lift their own mood or the moods of others. Tony’s writing is exceptional and the stories shared within A Gift of Love are uplifting and inspiring. I want to be a better person after reading this book, and I want to achieve that goal by following Tony’s example of service, kindness, and generosity.

To paraphrase Tony: Take advantage of each precious opportunity to express affection and appreciation to other people, especially (but not limited to) those people who have enriched your life in any way.

[I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinion was in no way influenced.]

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