4 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dear Friend, A Cancer Warrior

by Joshua Rowsey

In this new Facebook generation, it is a right of passage to post pictures of the first wedding you’re in. Sure, seeing an old friend’s wedding and engagement photos in your newsfeed is one thing, but actually being part of such a moment can coerce your brain to short circuit and say, “Yo, I am an adult and I need to get my life together, NOW.”

I had my “rite of passage” mid 2013, right after moving to New York City. I landed a big corporate job in hopes of proving to my parents that I didn’t waste four years of college, clinging to my pipe dream of being on the stage.

While sitting in my cubicle, one of my closest friends, Jordan, asked if I could make it to his wedding in Tulsa to be one of his groomsmen. Without hesitation, I agreed and flew down from the big city to the quiet plains of Tulsa.

The wedding — and the story of how he met his beautiful wife — was straight out of a romantic flick. The two were homecoming King and Queen at a small Christian college and fell madly in love with each other.

They tied the knot on a beautiful ranch, had a beautiful ceremony and blissful music playing. It was so awe-inspiring I couldn’t stand it.

I told him I might be sick because I couldn’t find a woman who wanted to be with me for more than six months, let alone my entire life. He laughed, but still, the way he spoke about his bride — his support system and best friend — left something to be desired.

I wanted something much more than a college hookup, “Let’s watch Netflix, but not really” culture to which I had become so accustomed.

I finally understood what it meant to be in love and it was something I desperately wanted.

Nine months later, as I prepared to perform at UNC’s Dance Marathon, I learned that Jordan passed away. He was 23.

He had been battling cancer for about three years and after triumphantly defeating it once, his second bout ended with his wife at his side to the very end.

I didn’t cry when I heard Jordan died; I didn’t even cry at his memorial. I was just stuck in a daze, contemplating life and what it means to live. Through Facebook, I was able to see a different side of my friend of which I was not aware, namely how he impacted communities across the United States and abroad.

As I contemplate his life and his battle with cancer, I have identified four lessons he taught me through the way he lived.

1. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to pursue what you love.

Jordan and Cady’s wedding happened quickly. While many have year-long engagements, Jordan and Cady’s was only a few weeks long.

Jordan learned that he would be forgoing cancer treatment the second time around and he wanted Cady to be his wife before he went into surgery.

I asked Jordan, as did many others, why he didn’t just wait until after the surgery to marry Cady — why he didn't wait for a better time, when circumstances could permit a detailed, planned wedding.

Jordan didn’t know what the next phase in his life would bring. He only knew that he loved Cady and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, so why wait?

If you’re waiting for the perfect time to jump, you’ll just stand around as life passes you by.

All of us want to pursue our dreams, our passions and our loves but are persistent about waiting for the right moment to dive in. We often seem to take more time preparing for the journeys rather than actually living them, but why?

There will always be something — another debt to pay or another surgery to pursue — so why not take the leap for your happiness right now?

2. You have a choice about how you react to every situation.

Jordan had to battle cancer -- twice. I’m pretty sure throughout the majority of it, he was smiling, laughing and thanking every single nurse who assisted him for every little thing. His positivity was infectious and admirable.

We cannot control many situations that life presents. What we do have is complete control over how we react to the challenges that we encounter. Jordan showed me that even when facing death, it is still possible to find reasons to smile in each blessing you have.

3. Forgive often.

During Jordan’s first round of cancer, I wasn’t around much. For some reason, I couldn’t stand to see my friend in pain. I rarely visited when he was undergoing treatment in a nearby hospital.

I never forgave myself for not being present during his first cancer battle and I always apologized to him for being an awful friend.

He’d be quick to tell me to shut up because he forgave me a long time ago, and he was just thankful that I was around for him. Jordan showed me that you have a choice to forgive the past and be thankful for what is present.

It took me a while to grasp this concept because I couldn’t stop apologizing to him (he laughed when I said it at the wedding).

4. Family is defined differently in the 21st century.

Jordan was a Jewish investment guru who found his sanctity in the Christian community of Tulsa. I am a confused, black nerd who often finds himself at grimy hip-hop venues where I feel the most spiritual.

Despite our obvious differences, you can’t tell us we’re not brothers. He stole my only pair of BAPES and thanks to him, I got my first Ralph polo. We were open to each other and thrived off of our dissimilarities.

Jordan lived a full life in the few years that he had. He was my example of what a true friend, a brother and a husband should be. I know that given the lessons that he left me, I’ll always be able to fight to make the most of my time on this earth.

Photo Courtesy: Fanpop/50/50