Yesterday, Bunmi and I attended the burial ceremony of a wealthy woman, Madam Olorunsogo. During the funeral service, someone asked in a half whisper how much she had left.
‘Hmmmm. She left everything!’, Someone replied. I smiled.
Last week, I bought a book, The Last Wishes of Alexander the Great, from The Booksellers. Amazing book.
On his death bed, Alexander (Greek King of Ancient Maccedon) summoned his Generals and told them his three ultimate wishes:
1) The best doctors should carry his coffin
2) The wealth he had accumulated should be scattered along the procession to the cemetery and
3) His hands should be let loose, hanging outside the coffin for all to see
One of the Generals who was surprised by these unusual requests asked Alexander to explain.
Here is what Alexander the Great had to say:
I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that in the face of death even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal.
I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that everybody sees that material wealth acquired on earth stays on earth.
I want my hands to swing in the wind so that people understand that we come into this world empty handed and we leave this world empty handed.
Death is a subject many people do not want to discuss but it is one of those inevitable things that must be confronted- like it or not.
As much as some men would think that they can ‘cheat’ death, they cannot. There is no fountain of youth or anti-aging pill to extend life. There is no scientific means of preventing death. NOTHING. Let’s just face reality and spend our time preparing for it.
Paul wasn’t wrong to advice us to set our minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).
If we cannot live forever, if we cannot take our earthly possessions with us when we die, and if we cannot return to this earth after we die, for what possible reason would we spend our entire lives in the pursuit of earthly things- power, positions and possessions.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 sums it up. Godliness with contentment is great gain. I would not exchange anything of this absolute greatness for the relative greatness that this world brags about. Contentment does not come from poverty and I am not commending poverty itself, but a simplicity of lifestyle compatible with human dignity.
We leave everything behind. That is the perspective that should influence us if we are gripped by it- and we should be. It does not matter how long I live, short or long, but when I die I will live my possessions behind. They are all baggage of time. They are not the stuff of eternity. So travel light.
These days, I choose to view the world with little real interest. I do know that I will one day die, and though I do not wish it, I have come to accept it.
I try to see every day as my last. Every day, I try to be kinder and more compassionate. Every day, I try to be a better person and to be less desiring, less hating and less judging of others. This is the way I have chosen to live. This is the lesson I choose to learn from Alexander.
If peace and plenty crown my days
They help me, Lord, to speak thy praise.
If bread of sorrows be my food,
These sorrows work my lasting good.
Godliness with contentment is great gain.
This is the day that the Lord had made.
I will rejoice and be glad in it.