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“Bury my body, do not build any monument, keep my hands outside so that the world knows the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying“. – Last words of Alexander the Great.
The final days of Alexander the Great offer a moral lesson for each one of us.
Alexander, while returning home after conquering many kingdoms fell mortally ill in Babylon. While lying on his deathbed in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, he realized the worthlessness of his vast hoard of gold, silver, and jewels, accumulated through his conquests with his sharp sword and his mighty army.
He longed to reach home. He wanted to have a last look of his mother’s face before departing from this mortal world. But, he knew that his sinking health would not let him reach his distant homeland. He called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.”
With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes.
“My first wish is that my physicians alone must carry my coffin,” said Alexander.
After a pause, the king continued, “For my second wish is I want the path leading to my grave be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which are in my treasury while my body is being carried to be buried.
The dying king continued, “My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.”
Though the generals wondered at the king’s strange wishes, no one dared to question or ask him the reason for these three wishes.
One of Alexander’s favourite generals after kissing his hand and pressing it to his heart said, “O king, we assure you that all your wishes will be fulfilled. But could you please enlighten us on why you make such strange wishes?”
Alexander’s favorite general kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. “O king, we assure you that your wishes will all be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?”
At this Alexander took a deep breath and said:
“I would like the world to know of these three fundamentals:
I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can really cure anybody. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death.
My second wish to strew gold, silver and other precious stones on the way to the graveyard is to let the people know that though I spent all my life accumulating riches, not even a grain of gold will come with me when I leave this world. I want people to understand that it is a sheer waste of time, energy, and peace of mind when one yearns to be rich.
With my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I want people to know that I came empty handed into this world and likewise will go empty handed from this world.”
A reader Thomas Dwomoh-Ameyaw has pointed out that Saint Paul was inspired by these last wishes of this great man:
For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. (I Timothy 6:7)