“All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a poignant collection of short essays by American author Robert Fulghum,” Benjamin stated as an opening to his eulogy. The service was held in an elegant funeral home just up the coast in Playa del Carmen. Even using their largest chapel, it was standing room only.
Mark had a place of honor behind and to the right of his father’s chair, which sat empty most of the service while he conducted. His father’s advisor, Pedro Hernandez sat to his left.
The late Prince Marcos Sayid lay in an open casket to the far left of the row of seats with his advisor, Collins beside him. He seemed emotional but resigned to the knowledge that today he was released from his duties.
Mark was comforted to have his own trusted advisor, Alexander, to his right, and his mother, Her Highness, Princess Nisha Sayid, to his left. Hazel sat in the front row beside her grandfather, Nicholas Cohen, and Noah and Andrew sat beside them.
Also, in the first few rows sat Prince Marcos’ staff, advisors, attorneys, house staff, business partners, extended family of the Cohen’s, local elected officials and business owners, and what seemed like every villager from the outlying communities. Mark’s grandfather had been well loved and respected.
“My father asked me to share some thoughts and impressions and insights with all of you,” Benjamin continued. “His list reads like an over-simplified musing of life instructions.” Benjamin took a step back from the podium.
Although Mark couldn’t see his father’s face from where he sat, he could envision the creased brow and pursed lips as he fought to maintain control of his emotions. Benjamin cleared his throat and continued with confidence.
“As many of you know, my father was raised Prince Marcos Sayid of Madain Saleh, second born to the still reigning, King Sayid. When his brother, the late Jared Sayid, died in a motorcycle accident at a young age, the king chose my father as the next Crown Prince rather than conferring the title upon his five-year-old nephew, who would have been next in line if Crown Prince Jared Sayid had lived until he came of age.
“This one choice, made by our reigning king, placed a target on my back, and that of my mother. Rather than having our lives in danger, my father fled with me in his arms and settled here.” Benjamin held his arms wide, outstretched to the people. “And I’m very glad he did.”
Many people in the room chuckled. He had brought smiles into a room filled with tissues and sniffling.
“Now that my son is of age, the title of Crown Prince will once again be passed from father to son,” Benjamin said. “My father has asked that we perform the coronation today as part of the celebration of his life.”
This brought murmurs from around the room and Mark momentarily thought the people were angry. He realized their faces were alight with excitement and anticipation. Mark’s nerves calmed from the heartfelt welcome that radiated from the people who cared for his grandfather, and father.
“It is my intention to stay here and serve all of you for the remainder of my life,” Benjamin continued. “My son will escort his grandfather home to our kingdom, continue his university education in the United States, and prepare himself to one day lead our people. I have complete faith in his ability to do so.”
Mark lowered his gaze and fought a flood of emotion at his father’s kind words and confidence in him.
“Before we proceed with the coronation,” Benjamin said. “I’ll attempt to bring a little humor into this otherwise dry list of instructions. Although I’m speaking to my son, these words apply to all of us in much the same way that Robert Fulghum taught the only advice we ever needed, we learned in kindergarten.”
Benjamin turned to Mark with a sly smile.
“You ready for this?” he asked.
“I’m ready, Your Highness.” I think.
“Learn as many languages as you can, learn about your ancestors, become a man of understanding, realize the importance of keeping good records of everything you do. People can’t be expected to remember details of things fifty years from now. Plus, you need to pass things down to your children, which is what I’m doing right now.” Benjamin turned part way and offered Mark a cheesy grin. “And Marcos has been commanded by his grandfather to have lots of beautiful babies.”
Mark chuckled and covered his eyes in mock embarrassment. He was never going to live that one down. Almost involuntarily his eyes strayed to glance at Hazel and he wished he hadn’t.
She was laughing right along with everyone else, but her expression was smoldering as if she had already decided she’d be the one with whom he’d make those beautiful babies. How was he supposed to keep her at arm’s length when she looked at him that way?
Mark turned his attention back to his father who had grown serious again.
“Know the importance of your name so that you might be distinguished from other people,” Benjamin said. “But be humble. Do not boast. You are not better than anyone else. Be submissive, meek, patient, and happy. Open your heart and mind and be full of love. I think that keeps in line with your grandfather’s instructions to have beautiful babies.”
“Oh my gosh, dad, stop.” Mark fought a full-on grin and avoided even glancing in Hazel’s direction.
“Serve others, labor with your own hands. Be thankful for the things you have and generous with your time, talents, and money. Seek not after riches for your own gain but to be used in the service of others. Give to the needy, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick. Teach your children. Don’t let them go hungry or fight with each other.” Benjamin paused again. “Do you see a pattern here with the whole ‘children’ thing?”
“Not at all,” Mark mumbled playfully.
“Be nice to others, beware of all contention, apologize when you’ve done something wrong and if you borrow something, return it.”
At that point Benjamin got serious again and his words caught with emotion, but he still managed to pull in some humor.
“When you are called upon to lead your kingdom do not overtax your people or keep slaves… I don’t know what century my father was living in when he wrote these, but some of these things should be self-evident by now.”
“Agreed.” Mark nodded.
“Lastly, don’t try to run faster than you have strength. Just do what you can do.”
Benjamin folded his paper and turned to Mark, who stood and reached his arms around his dad. “Thanks, dad.”
“What do you say we put a crown and that head of yours?” Benjamin whispered playfully.
Mark glanced up at his father’s head, at the almost bronzed finish of the ancient gold crown adorned in jewels and realized this was the last time he’d see his dad wear a crown.