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  • Nita Bajoria

Happy Birthday Mother……

“Keep the joy of loving the poor and share this joy with all you meet. Remember works of love are works of Peace. God Bless you.”

– Mother Teresa

“The lady from India was in tears, the moment she entered the Museum. She kept saying, Mother has given me my daughter” Svetlana, the sweet girl guide inside the Memorial House of Mother Teresa at Skopje, Macedonia recalled, the moment I told her that I am from Kolkata, where mother dedicated her life to the destitute.

“There are many stories that surround mother and tell us about her generosity and love” She added, guiding me around the big hall. While I stared at the childhood photographs of Mother, above a model of her house, she further told me that Mother’s original name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu and that she was baptized the very next day she was born at the very place we were standing.

What is now a museum, once stood the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church.

Habituated in seeing her always in her iconic blue striped white Indian Sari, I was mesmerized to see her photograph with her sister in native Albanian attire. She looked so beautiful, like any other teenage girl. Who would think that this young girl would leave everything behind to answer a call, at the early age of seventeen, to a far off unknown land, never to return to her family? Though she lived for 87 years, once she gave her life to “Christ”, she never turned back to meet her mother and sister again.

From Ireland, her first destination away from home, she came to Kolkata, then Calcutta, as a nun and taught History and geography in St. Mary’s school for fifteen years.

“I’m leaving my dear house,

And my beloved land.

To steamy Bengal go I,

To a distant Shore.

I’m leaving my old friends,

Forsaking family and home.

My heart draws me onward

To serve my christ.

Goodby, O mother dear,

May God be with you all.

A higher power compels me,

Towards torrid India.

The ship moves slowly ahead,

Cleaving the ocean waves.

As my eyes take one last look,

At Europe’s dear shores.

Bravely standing on the deck,

Joyful, peaceful of mien.

Christ’s happy little one,

His new bride-to-be.

In her hand a cross of Iron,

On which the savior hangs.

While her eager soul offers there,

Its painful sacrifice.

Oh God, accept this sacrifice,

As a sign of my love.

Help please, thy creature,

To glory thy name.

In return I only ask of thee,

O most kind father of us all;

Let me save at least one soul-

One you already know.

Fine and pure as summer dew,

Her soft warm tears begin to flow.

Sealing and sanctifying now,

Her painful sacrifice.

-Mother Teresa ( 1929)

The farewell letter she wrote while she was travelling from Ireland to Calcutta, reflected her emotions well. There were displays of her writings, pictures with eminent people on the first floor of the white building.

Mother Teresa received the Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony in 1985 by President Reagan and his wife Nancy.

Though everything about them was as diverse as possible, the two women had one thing in common. They both shared an urge to serve the needy. They are strangely connected by death too. In 1997, they died just six days apart.

After Diana’s death, Mother sent a condolence message that said, “She was very concerned for the poor. She was very anxious to do something for them, and it was beautiful. That is why she was close to me.”

Princess Diana is said to have been buried with a rosary given to her by Moth

The top floor had a beautiful chapel covered with Glass. As the sun's rays sparkled through the blue glass-walled chapel above the museum, I focused on the photograph of mother hanging opposite me. Each wrinkle of her face seemed to be narrating stories of her relentless efforts, rejections, doubts, hope and the guilt that she might have slept every night with, thinking what she is doing is probably not enough. Staying close to pain, sickening illness, hunger, oozing wounds, despair might have stirred her soul so many times to leave all and go live a normal life, full of expectations, comfort, nagging cribbing and demanding. But she never gave up her faith and continued with her determination to relieve this world from agony as much as she could have and sometimes even more than any mortal soul can. I closed my eyes, trying to absorb the peace and warmth of the place.

Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at the time of her death had 610 missions in 123 countries including hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children’s and family counselling programs, orphanages and schools. Her selfless work and soul had been and would be an inspiration always.

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