I found this story on the internet several years ago, and cannot now remember the location. Apologies to whoever put it there.
A famous spiritual teacher came to the front door of the King's palace. None of the guards tried to stop him as he entered and made his way to where the King himself was sitting on his throne. "What do you want?" asked the King, immediately recognising the visitor. "I would like a place to sleep in this inn," replied the teacher. "But this is not an inn, it is my palace!” said the King. “May I ask who owned this place before you?" said the teacher. "My father, who is now dead." "And who owned it before him?" "My grandfather. He too is dead." "And this place where people live for a short time and then move on - did I hear you say that it is not an inn?"
A group of people were asked for their reactions to this story. Here are samples of what they wrote:
"I like this story because it shows that people in power think that their power or position is permanent. But nothing in life is permanent. People like this need to be put in their place."
"We live and die and never really own anything.”
"Materialism and wealth make you think things will last forever. It's all a defence against the realisation that everything eventually passes away."
"The teacher is trying to show the king that the palace is not his. If the palace represents life itself, then who does it belong to? Does life belong to anyone?"
"People on the road, like the teacher, may have a better grasp of what life is about than people who have entrenched themselves in their positions and possessions."
All of our experiences - sights, sounds, tastes and smells - are a kind of flowing stream. Even our thoughts and sensations and emotions are a perpetual stream: from moment to moment we change our attention from one object to another - sights and sounds, feelings, moods, thoughts…. So our bodies are rivers, continually flowing rivers. The world itself is a kind of river, perpetually flowing. And everyone you know is an ever-changing river. How could we think that anything we call ours - even our bodies - is a perpetual possession? Think of the world of your grand- or great-grandparents: it has vanished completely and so have they.
“Lord, what are human beings that you regard them,
Or mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
Their days are like a passing shadow?” (Psalm 143:3)
Sometimes we use the teachings of the Faith as a cover to hide this reality from ourselves. We pretend that death is somehow not real. I once saw a mortuary card that said, “There is no death!” But there is death! Our Faith was never meant to serve as a shield against reality. Jesus experienced transience and death to the last breath, and so will we. Resurrection does not make death to be somehow less than death. We go into death with nothing up our sleeve, no aces, no tricks, nothing. We depend entirely on the mercy of God to raise us into new life. We pretend that we are sure of the life on independent grounds, just as we are sure of Australia even though we haven't been there. But there are no other grounds for belief in the next life: no other grounds than the gracious mercy of God.