Posts Tagged ‘Golgotha’

It is a matter of believing.

March 25, 2015

WWe are back from our trip and I am back at University of Chicago hospital for tests: CT scan, blood test, and EKG.  These test are needed for me to start the new critical trial on Monday, March 30.  It will establish a baseline for me before I start the trial, a new immuno-therapy trial.

New trial, new hope.  That is all I can ask for: hope that this next treatment works.  The optimistic way is to say; I believe this next treatment is going to work.  After all it is a matter of believing.

Back in Jerusalem and Rome, there is a lot of that — believing.  At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I placed my hands on the stone where Jesus was said to have laid after being brought down from the cross.  Is that really the stone?  Similarly, Golgotha, the biblical name where Jesus was crucified, has three locations depending on which you believe is the true site.  Most believe that the true site is where the Holy Sepulcher church lies, and that is where most people flock and worship.  It is a matter of believing.

In Rome, where the city is replete with history and artifacts even before the time of Jesus, you need every ounce of belief to accept all the things you see.  It was mind boggling.  I was in awe of the magnificence of St. Peter’s Basilica.  I experienced hair-raising moments when I saw the Pope, attended mass at the Basilica, viewed the Sistine Chapel, and when I climbed the Scala Santa on my knees.

All the sights, statues, obelisks, churches, etc., tells the story of man’s tribute to God and his belief.  There is not enough buildings and basilicas to compensate man’s insecurities in his quest for perfection as reflected in the beautiful artworks and paintings. I carry the same inadequacy, that’s why I pray.

Right now I pray, not for lofty offerings or perfection, but the courage to fully believe I will be cured.  It is a matter of believing.  Now, let see what my doctors will tell me.


P.S.  I gave my Jerusalem medal to my friend and PT, JamieM.  I told her she deserve the medal for helping me get back, while I got the memory of running Jerusalem.  Then she asks “so what’s next?”  Huh?

Jerusalem medal

My Jerusalem finisher medal

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In God’s Land: Jerusalem

March 17, 2015

GGod is everywhere.  That is what I remember what my grade school religion teacher told me.  God is here. God helped me cross the finish line during the Jerusalem half-marathon.  He was also watching if I cheated during the race …hehe.

During the race there were lots of opportunities to cheat, cut corners, or plain just give up. There were stretches along the course where you can just make a quick turn and nobody would know. I know I will not win it anyway so why bother. Beside I have I every bit of good reason not to be at the starting line: I have metastatic cancer in my lungs.  But I was not going to be robbed of this opportunity.  I am hoping in between the pain of running the hilly terrain of Jerusalem and the solitude it brings, I find peace.

Magnificence of this place is striking.  The history and the scenic view the city provided was inspiring. The pavement on the course might have been man-made but this is God’s land, therefore holy. There were olive trees, which made me wonder how old they were? Were they around during the time of Christ? Are there olives in Mt. Olives?  Perhaps there is something in running that enhances your senses to absorb your pain in your body, the loud cheers of the crowd, and appreciate the beauty of Jerusalem. You notice everything and I could not help but appreciate the significance of this place. I am blessed.

Catharsis, a purification or purgation of emotions that brings about spiritual renewal or tension – Merriam/Webster dictionary.  This is my Jerusalem marathon: a cathartic moment.

Shabbat Shalom

After my 13.1 mile cleansing, my wife and I got to see the preparation for Shabbat.  The hostel were we stayed hosted a Shabbat dinner serving a full vegetarian meal (I can live here).  Guest pay for the meal but if you want help out in the kitchen, like cut vegetables, you get a free meal too.

It is not the traditional Shabbat meal prepared at home with fancy silverware and mapah levanah (white table clothes), but the essence of the meal is there.  There is the Shabbat candles, Shabbat challah (whole-wheat bread), wine, prachim (flowers), etc.  I am sure the food taste good too as well as company of fellow travelers in the table.

There is something to be said about food in this place.  It was as if all the fruits, vegetables, and food were touch or made by God himself.  The oranges from Jaffa, even bottled ones, taste sweeter.  The olives were plump and tasty, perhaps picked from hundred year old trees in the surrounding area. I could go on and list all the typical Israeli food that I tasted which was influenced by many cultures when this country was formed. These are the tahina, hummus, falafel, salad, halva, kebab, and many more. I love it.

A trip to the Mahena Yehuda market is an experience that cannot be miss, especially on a Friday.  It is were the locals shop for their daily needs. Going there is an assault to your all senses. Amazing place to explore, taste, and learn. I am definitely not in Chicago.  This early I know I am going to miss this place.

The Old City.

The Old City is about one square mile and it is densely packed with more than 45,000 residents that includes Jews, Muslim, and Christians.  There are churches, museums, schools, apartments, markets, toilets, eateries, etc., and history. The city is divided into four quarters: Armenian, Jews, Arabs, and Christians.

I came to walk the Via Dolorosa and it is more than I bargained for.  The narrow streets were full of merchants selling their wares from fruit juices to pots and pans.  If you can think of anything that you would need on a daily basis it is there.  The air is punctuated with all sorts of perfume, scents, spices, and vendors calling your attention.  It is hard to imagine these are the steps (the Via Dolorosa) that Jesus took on the way to Calgary or Golgotha.

The path of the Via Dolorosa ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place according to Christians is where Christ was crucified, died,and was buried.



There are many artifacts on display in the church but the most electrifying object for me was the stone where it is believe where Jesus laid and cleaned after he was brought done from the cross.  I touched the stone much like all the visitors coming and felt something inside me.  The stone was cold to touch but it pulsated and gave me warmth.  What was it telling me?


In Jerusalem I was hoping for answers and peace.  I saw and absorbed all the sights and sound of Jerusalem.  I indulged in the experience.  I prayed to all the Gods (Jewish, Orthodox, Christians, Jesus) and went to all the religious sites, including at the Western Wall.  I contemplated.  I ran its streets.  I swam in the Dead Sea.  Met many travelers who come to this place seeking whatever they seek.  At the end, it is left to me, and those who came here. It is about believing. And in this place it is not hard to believe.


P.S. We are at the airport now on the way to Rome. The next leg of our adventure. Hopefully, I get tickets to see the Pope tomorrow.

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Lenten Season: Journey to Calgary

February 18, 2015

TToday is Ash Wednesday, the officially start of the Lenten season for Catholics.  Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, pig-out day before the fasting starts, and it is Mardi Gras time in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.  My office-friend, Mary AnnG, told me she was going to go to her church’s Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day.  That should be fun.

Looking back to last year’s Lenten season I marked it by attempting to become a vegan.  The experiment for Lent was to give up my favorite Japanese ramen but along the way ended up as a vegetarian.  I already gave up eating beef and pork long time ago, then I took out poultry meat and its associated products, and then the hardest was to give up because it was my favorite: fish and seafood.  As vegetarian I made an exception to cheese because of runner’s power food, pizza. Then of course, it would not hurt to indulgence once in a while on brie, camembert, and blue cheese.  Yum.

The intention then was to prune and grow.  Give up something to make room for new and better things.

Better things: it is relative.  It is anchored on what each of us value most.  My journey  with cancer puts me in a different category that only fellow cancer survivors would understand.  However, I must acknowledge I have bouts of “buyer’s remorse” or episodes of regrets.  I gave up many things, at times reluctantly but mostly willingly, for a long shot, a chance, a moment, to live life without cancer.  Then, when it does not workout as I expect it, I sulk.

Remind me again: Why I did gave up steak or fish or coffee or half a liver for what?”

Looking ahead, I am looking forward to our pilgrimage trip to Jerusalem and Rome.  It is not only for the chance to run a half marathon in Jerusalem, it is more solemn than that.  The trip coincides with my 7th year anniversary of being diagnose with cancer.  Thus, for this Lent I am not going to pledge or give up anything to grow; technically, I have been fasting by not eating meat for a long time now.

“You got to have an intention for your practice”, my yoga teachers would say.

For this Lent, the intention is to accept the cross I am asked to carry.  Do the 14 Station of the Cross or the via Dolorosa in Jerusalem by carrying my cross all the way to Calgary (Golgotha).  I want to experience the struggle of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane: Why was Jesus asked to carry the cross to certain death?  Why am I being asked this?  Perhaps after understanding it, I can shed off my agnostic feeling towards religion.  I am not perfect but I am being asked to do something I cannot fully comprehend or accept when others live fully without remorse.  It is not bitterness that I feel, perhaps anger, but in the end it just does not compute.


P.S. Today at the hospital, a chaplain came to my room to give me ashes on my forehead.  An ashen cross marks my forehead to start my Lenten journey.  Good luck! – a common meaningful greeting among cancer patients and survivors.

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