A prince, whose life was filled with ease, found his life to be lacking. Wanting more, he was filled with wanderlust, believing that true happiness and knowledge would come from outside the walls of the kingdom. The king and queen understood his desires and sent him forth in the company of a trusted knight.
Together, they traveled on horseback for many miles, to many lands, to sit at the tables of great kings and humble peasants. Everywhere he went he was welcomed, revered, and yes, he learned.
He soon grew tired of his adventure, and he longed for the familiar surroundings of home and family.
So anxious was he to return, that he pleaded with the knight, his friend, to travel a different, untested route that would surely shorten their journey. The knight agreed, and they cut through the forest to pass through an unfamiliar valley. The way proved not only shorter, but more flat than expected, so much that the prince, more anxious than before, demanded they travel by night. If they did, the prince predicted, he would enter his kingdom the next day as the morning sun would rise.
It was a crescent moon night, and they traveled slowly and carefully. When they came to a dry riverbed, the two men sensed a difference heretofore experienced. The prince led his horse over the stones and noticed in his unsure footing how strange the stones were. He stooped to gather a handful and dropped them into his pocket.
Much later than the sunrise, the prince and his trusted knight, found the road to the village outside the walled castle. Word spread quickly and by the time they came to the palace, a full entourage awaited the prince. What joy to be had at the prince's return. There were tears (his mother's), prideful rejoicing (his father's), and a feast and celebration was ordered at once.
The prince was led to his chamber where his coat was taken off his back and laid across a chair. He was bathed, dried, and powdered. How good it felt to be clean after an arduous journey.
The revelry lasted into the early evening. When the prince finally insisted he couldn't stay any longer, he retired to his chamber. As he crawled into his sumptuous, fluffy bed, the jacket caught his eye. He remembered the riverbed and the stones. He re-lit his lamp and reached into the pocket. To his astonishment, he pulled out, not stones or rocks, but gems of the most incredible clarity and color--rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds. The prince exclaimed, "Had I known I was among such treasure, I would have gathered more."
Today, I will gather with my cousins, as they have traveled far to bury their father, my uncle. He is the last of the uncles on my father's side--a rich cast of characters in my childhood.
Growing up, I was unaware I was among such treasure and could never have gathered enough---it is why today, I will drive a distance, why I will stand in the cold, to be among my cousins--my treasures.