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As life enters the terminal season of its pilgrimage on earth, the human heart begins leisurely to traverse a course of living marked by the irreversible indication of age. Its days move like a tortoise inching along a wasteland.

The body is weakening. The face is wrinkling. The hair is silvery, if not completely white. Flabby skin hangs on the bones. Movement of limbs is sluggish. The human system is ravaged. But even as the material heart is beginning to beat unevenly, yet the will of the non-material heart remains constant and patient in lending support to the operation of the spirit, mind and soul.

There are moments when the heart wants to welcome the temptation to stop beating completely...but they are at once pushed away when there come upon it surprises of joys...

There are moments when the heart wants to welcome the temptation to stop beating completely when assailed by dark thoughts and unbearable pressures, but they are at once pushed away when there come upon it surprises of joys tendered spontaneously by loving relatives and caring friends.

And whatever pain it feels is eased and comforted, and it wants to be sustained by pleasant memories and reflections, especially if it is a heart that has lived fully. For if it has savored enough of the wonders of life, it therefore wants to continue living for as long as it can go on dreaming and hoping.

Old age is the season for remembering sweet things of the past indelibly registered in the heart. As for the heart's hopes and cares about its future,these are tempered by its keen awareness of the happenings of the day. For concomitant to the heart's sensitivity is the mind's acute perceptiveness to present realities, especially events and incidents portending the finality of man and things.

The sight of a yellow or brown leaf fluttering to the ground ...evokes in the mind of an old beholder a sudden awareness of extinction...

The sight of a yellow or brown leaf fluttering to the ground or of the withering of a flower evokes in the mind of an old beholder a sudden awareness of extinction, momentarily suspending the heart's capacity to fight for life.

So do cemetery scenes, dead trees, slaughtered animals, brutalities, famines and wars. Such realities are daily encountered through the media, TV, and films. And the heart reacts strongly to such suggestive hints of the mind's fears of its own inevitable mortality.

It is a blessed heart that knows how to shove away all thoughts about its impending end while suffering a terminal illness.

It is a blessed heart that can still see with joy in all forms of beauty in man and his good works as well as in all kinds of God's creations despite being in terrible adversity.

It is a blessed heart that can feel a sense of immortality regardless of the darkness and evils confronting it.

It is a blessed heart that can listen calmly to the siren call of Death while lying in a hospital bed.

It is a blessed heart that can face fatal pains and is able to entrust itself into the hands of God.

There are times when the heart living alone in old age dreads the approach of the darkness of night because it seems to appear like a heavy purple shroud about to enfold the whole world and smother all living things with black stillness.

But most hearts do not feel anything except great wonders as they look at the brilliant stars in the firmament. They are hearts that have already learned to regard them as more than mere astronomical objects or galactic bodies; they are hearts that prefer to accept them as celestial lamps put in the heavens by the Creator for the benefit of all His creatures.

In the wisdom of the good heart there is genuinely no borderline separating the realm of earthly reality from the zone of fantasy.

In the wisdom of the good heart there is genuinely no borderline separating the realm of earthly reality from the zone of fantasy. Indeed, in the vision of the heart, especially the saintly heart, there is always a touch of heavenly truth which challenges mass credulity.

For when the heart has already attained full maturity, it partakes of a certain measure of the wisdom and power of Christ's heart, thus acquiring the capability to cross the great abyss that keeps apart the natural and the supernatural, the physical and the spiritual, the earthly and the heavenly. Such a heart is no longer impeded in its operation by time, space and dimension when it chooses to see or function in the realm of another reality.

The heart of the good elderly usually focuses its operations more inwardly and less outwardly. It is absorbed more in reflections about its own self. It accepts the present happenings impacting upon its own person with patience and fortitude.

It has a long tolerance for troubles, though it might be protesting in silence. It is contemplatively interested in the ultimate result of existence. It always tries to exercise prudence in dealing with all kinds of people, beginning with loved ones. And it is preoccupied with time for self-accounting. The truest color of the heart comes into light at the moment when life is fast ebbing to the very brink of death. This is true for most hearts, whether old or young. Of course, it cannot be said of hearts of children because their lives are still a white canvas, so to speak, without any significant coloration of blackness.

It is said that when 84-year old Voltaire was shriveling in his deathbed he sent for a priest so he could make a confession. But when the priest refused to give him absolution without making a signed etraction, Voltaire rebelled. But he signed a statement which he gave to his secretary, Wagner, saying: "I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition."

This Voltaire incident is an example of a heart that, on the last moment, tries to splash a heavy coat of paint so as to cover a riot of colors made by an exciting mode of past living in wild abandon.

Apparently, Voltaire, sensing the closing of his life, reviewed the colors his wild heart had splattered on the fabric of his soul and decided they were unworthy for his God to behold or even for his conscience to glory in them. Indeed his heart might have suddenly come upon the ultimate Truth which rendered foolish and superficial the so-called wit and truth he used to make much of in the course of his careless and irreverent living as a man of the world and a cavalier of philosophy and letters.

Seeing death at close range, his heart knew it could escape the sting of a Just Judgment only by the grace of God's mercy. That he was given the light to take a move for reconciliation with his Creator was already a sign that his heart had come to a gratuitous wisdom.

He humbled himself without yielding to the temptation which lured the philosopher Francis Bacon to commend his name "to the ages and to foreign nations." It seems Voltaire's heart already knew that his name as a great writer and thinker would forever be accepted by future generations in France and other nations.

But the will of the dying heart to tell the truth rankling within it is always much stronger than the will of the mind to tell a lie.

Oystered in every dying heart is a message it wants urgently to reveal before its beat completely stops. The message, whether written, spoken or forcibly whispered by trembling lips, always contains some truth or the Truth.

Of course, there are times when a thoroughly wicked mind, inspired by an evil spirit, intervenes to supplant the message with malevolent untruth designed to create troubles and grief for all concerned. But the will of the dying heart to tell the truth rankling within it is always much stronger than the will of the mind to tell a lie.

The contents of a deathbed message are always very important. The manner of its delivery is also very significant. For the act of the heart sees the grave not as a black hole in the earth ready to swallow the human flesh and bones but a tantalizing embrace of a new life in another world.

At such a moment the heart sees itself not as a carcass to be dumped in the ground but as a seed to be planted, a seed meant to grow again and finally emerge in another reality greater than the common sun and moon and stars.

For, at such a moment, the heart sees the meaningful truth about itself as a promise of a new life which is absolutely alien to things of earth, but is consummately a part of the spiritual beings eternally existing in God's Realm.

© P.C. Morantte

(Reprinted with permission from Heritage Magazine, Winter, 1996)

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