The great Macedonian king Alexander, after conquering many kingdoms, was returning home. On the way, he fell ill and it took him to his death bed. With death staring him in his face, Alexander realized how his conquests, his great army and all his wealth were of no consequence.
He now longed to reach home to see his mother’s face and bid her his last adieu. But, he had to accept the fact that his sinking health would not permit him to reach his distant homeland. So, the mighty conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. 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 desire is that,” said Alexander, “My physicians alone must carry my coffin.” After a pause, he continued, “Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury.
“The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute’s rest and continued. “My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.”The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strange wishes. but no one dared to question him. 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 the three lessons I have just learnt –
- 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. So let not people take life for granted.
- The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other rich items on the way to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life earning expensive items but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.
- And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world.”
Alexander’s last words: ‘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’. With these words, the king closed his eyes. Soon he let death conquer him.