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The story goes about a rich man who had four wives at the same time. He loved the 4th wife very much and adorned her with rich robes and the finest delicacies. He also loved his 3rd wife. He was very proud of her and was always showing her off to his friends. But he always feared that she would leave him for another man. He loved his 2nd wife too. She was considerate, and helped him out whenever he was in trouble and needed advice. His 1st wife was a very loyal and capable partner, who never tired of waiting on him and caring for his household. But, sad to say, the merchant did not love her and scarcely even noticed her.
One day he fell ill and was dying. Fearing the loneliness of separation he called his 4th wife and asked her whether she would accompany him since he had lavished so much upon her. “No way!” she replied. The answer sent a dagger to his heart. He then asked the 3rd wife whether she would accompany him in view of the love he had given her. “No ” she replied. “Life is too good over here. I’m going to remarry after you die”. His heart sank! “Perhaps my 2nd wife will not be so cruel”, he thought. So he said to her, “I’ve always relied on your help and you’ve never turned me down. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?” She replied “I’m sorry. This time you are beyond my help! I can only go as far as the cemetery with you.” This crushed him.
Suddenly he heard, “I will live with you. I’ll follow you wherever you go.” He looked up and there standing before him was his 1st wife. She was lean and haggard and looked terribly undernourished. He was terribly grieved at the sight of her and regretted that he hadn’t taken more care of her whilst he had the chance.
There is a moral to this story, and it reveals a truth our ancestors taught in many parables. The 4th wife is like our body. No matter how much time and effort is spent in making it look good, it will never accompany us when we die. The 3rd wife is like our possessions, status and wealth. When we die our possessions are left to others. The 2nd wife is like our family and friends. No matter how much they care for us, they can only accompany us as far as the cemetery when we die. But the 1St wife is like our soul, which cannot be separated from us and which we can easily neglect.
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