Once upon a time a good-hearted and noble-minded king ruled over a desert kingdom within a vast sea of sun-bleached sand.
Outside of the city walls, as far as the eye could see, nothing lived but burrowing desert mice and scurrying black beetles.
Within the city’s walls, life for the king’s subjects was good, as it was the king’s great-grandfather who first discovered the rushing oasis spring which, to this day, still feeds the city’s palms and dates and pomegranates.
But the aging ruler, who had lived far past his family and wives, now had only those he ruled over as his companions, and he now lived only for their happiness.
But despite being much-loved, as old men are want to do, he began to doubt the value of his life, and began to question whether he had truly been a good king — as his father and his father’s father had been. He wondered how he would be remembered when he died. Would he be remembered at all?
It was at this time that the king heard from a passing mystic of a magnificent and miraculous white orchid which blossomed in the very middle of the vast desert. It was said that this orchid possessed the power of prophesy and that whoever possessed the orchid would know the truth of what was to come. And what had been. That is also would bestow great wisdom on whoever claimed it and would offer powerful protection and great wealth to all who came near.
And so the king made it his quest to find this orchid and bring it to the oasis in the center of his kingdom, for all his people, that they might know the future and continue receiving their blessings long after the king had died.
Out from the city’s wall’s rode the finest young men in search of the orchid for their beloved king. And for years they searched, but to no avail. Even the king, on certain moonless nights, snuck out from the city on the back of his powerful stallion in search of the miraculous orchid. And each time he returned empty-handed, his heart filled with more and more sadness and regret.
Perhaps his failure to find the orchid was a sign that his greatness had been nothing more than a mirage in the desert?
Never was the orchid found.
Years later, as the king lay dying, surrounded by his grieving subjects, again his mind and heart were filled with doubts of his worthiness as a king.
And be began to long for death if only to free him from these burdensome thoughts. And one night Death came, quietly and gently, and took the king’s spirit to his place of rest, where he was greeted by the spirit of his father, who smiled joyously and embraced his son.
“Father, I have failed as a king, and as your son. I did nothing for your people,” the king’s spirit said.
“Come, and look, ” the king’s father said and turned his son back toward the kingdom, where the son watched his funeral procession moving slowly through the streets of the kingdom, the weeping crowds parting reverently.
“Listen,” said the king’s father. And the son listened, and to his dismay, he could hear the thoughts of his subjects as his beautifully cloaked body passed: “The king smiled upon me that day of my heartbreak, and I didn’t feel so alone,” said one young man. “He made me feel safe within these walls, that I might have a family and be a good father,” said an old man. “I showed my child what honor and integrity were by pointing to the king in his tower,” said a mother. “I learned that strength and goodness can be one in the same, from the king’s example,” said a soldier.
And on and on it went, until the king’s eyes were filled with tears and his heart lifted with joy.
The father turned to his son, “You allowed your subjects to find their own way. You gave them safety that they might thrive, you gave them peace that they might discover love. You, my son, were the greatest of kings.”
Touched and humbled, the king asked, “But what of the future? What will become of our people? Who will watch over and protect them?”
Again, the king’s father turned his son to the kingdom, and to the center of the lush oasis within. There the king’s body lay buried, at the green bank of the rushing stream, a simple monument marking the grave, with the words inscribed upon it: “Long May Our Beloved King Live.”
And from the very center of the desert, on a grass-covered grave, over the king’s heart, there grew a miraculous and magnificent…