A Gift of Love

Lessons Learned From My Work and Friendship with Mother Teresa

By Tony Cointreau

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.


"Beautiful book that I couldn't recommend more highly if one of my own children had written it! The compassion and love that pours out of this author is spellbinding. I was hooked on every word he wrote and fell in love with his beautiful and kind heart. In a world where it's easy to lose home in mankind, this book is like a refreshing breeze. There is still goodness left in the world. Knowing that people like Tony Cointreau are out there makes me feel better about humanity! A Gift of Love inspires the reader to step out of their own shadow and make a difference in someone else's life. Mother Teresa's legacy lives on in people like Tony Cointreau and that's a beautiful thing. Through his hands, she is still able to touch lives. I simply cannot recommend this book enough. The words and message will stay with you and you will be better for it." —Joi from Self Help Daily posted a shortened version of her review on Amazon

"Cointreau's stories of love, patience, friendship, and nonjudgment show that even in a society where we focus on the bad, there is still a lot of good going on in our world." —Read review

"By learning to give himself to serve others as they went through the process of dying, his life became meaningful and purposeful. A Gift of Love is a practical memoir where Tony Cointreau shares what he has learned through his service. These lessons are a valuable help to friends and family acting as caregivers during end of life transitions." —Read review

"In a society besotted with violence and negativity, this seems an impossible message. The attitude and beliefs he preaches, however, could and would make a world of difference for us all." —Bookloons

"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." —Cheryl's Book Nook.

"The entire book was a lesson in encouragement, compassion, and enlightenment . . . How Mr. Cointreau takes a subject as grim as dying and makes it an uplifting journey for the reader is mind-boggling, but that's exactly what he has accomplished. I hope you'll grab a copy of A Gift of Love right away. There are books that touch you, there are books that are great reads, and there are books that you know will stay with you forever. This is one of the rare books that answers to all three." —Joi Sigers, Self Help Daily (full review).

"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!" —Crystal Book Reviews

"'A Gift of Love' by Tony Cointreau is a poignant account of one man's courageous journey to help those facing their last days. Eventually everyone will have to either be a caregiver or know someone who is a caregiver or facing his or her last days. This may be a small book but it is filled with heartfelt stories and useful advice. The subject matter may be difficult but it pulls the reader in with the compassion that flows from its pages. It is an excellent read for anyone looking to gain perspective and empathy and especially recommended for caregivers and nurses. Now that Mother Teresa has been in the spotlight in the last few days this is the perfect book to read to learn about her work with the dying." —SA Examiner

Published by Prospecta Press
September 6, 2016
Hardcover: 200 pages - $20.00
ISBN: 9781632260499

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Praise for Ethel Merman, Mother Teresa... and Me

"I was so interested in your life with Ethel Merman…she was a gifted and fascinating woman. And of course Mother Teresa is smiling down. I don't think she would ever be anything but enthusiastic about your life and its far-ranging activity.

Your book is a wonderful story that nobody else can tell. I even think your family background is fun! You are a Cointreau, but then you also had the important entertainer career—I don't think they make many more like you."
HELEN GURLEY BROWN, Author and iconic editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine

Tony Cointreau's friendship with my mother was one of her life's true blessings. Naturally comfortable in the brightest light of her stardom and the softest light of her vulnerable heart, Tony shared an everyday intimacy with Ethel like a second son...like my brother.
BOB LEVITT, Ethel Merman's son

Dear Tony,
I am glad to know that you have experienced joy in sharing our works of love for the poor in our home for AIDS patients. Thank you for your generous gift of love. Please pray for me as I do for you.
God bless you,
—MOTHER TERESA, Missionaries of Charity