Jarrod and Emily Egley at Cafe du Monde (2019).
My friend Jarrod is dying after an eight year battle with cancer. He’s lived a life worth celebrating, one that has drawn people to Christ.
I was going about my business this week when I received a text that stopped me in my tracks. A college friend was being moved to hospice care.
Jarrod Egley was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in early 2017. In the fall of 2018, tests revealed the cancer had spread to his lungs and Jarrod’s cancer was classified as Stage IV.
For almost eight years from the date of the original diagnosis, he’s fought. Through surgeries, radiation, endless rounds and cycles of chemotherapy, and experimental immunotherapies, he’s fought.
Last year, I flew out to California and spent some time with Jarrod and his wife, Emily. We sat outside one night. He acknowledged to me that it was not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’ the cancer would claim his life. I told him I was sorry, because what else is there to say?
We talked about our faith, about the trials of Job, about Jacob wrestling with God, about Paul’s affliction. But mostly we reflected on our time together in school, on the good things, and the mundane things, that happened since.
Jarrod and I met at Tulane University. One Sunday morning in the Spring of my freshman year, I rose from my dorm room bed, dressed, and began walking down Saint Charles Avenue in New Orleans with no particular agenda. I walked until I came across First Baptist Church and the thought flickered in the vacuous recesses of my brain to enter.
Some would say it was a lark. The Calvinist in me says providence. The walk that morning changed the trajectory of my time at Tulane and my life on the whole. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry became central to my life and put me in regular league with Jarrod. I met him first at the BCM and we ultimately ended up attending church together.
Jarrod was a faithful servant on and off campus. He helped organize a group of us that would weekly make our way down to the Esplanade seawall on the backside of the French Quarter to feed the homeless. On Friday nights, he could be found at chapel with a small cadre of students foregoing Bourbon Street for early 2000s worship music.
Jarrod was a loyal friend in those years. Never rude or biting. Not prone to an insult for an easy laugh. Persistently encouraging. An engineering student, his mind worked linearly and was oriented to problem solving. There were never a lot of wasted words — always a lot of deliberative questions when he disagreed or did not understand a point. He exhibited intelligence, empathy, and the kind of moral conviction that sets someone apart.
He also had a wry and dry sense of humor and a penchant for beating people at Madden football. He was fair-to-midland on the ultimate frisbee pitch. Along the way, there were crawfish boils, Mardi Gras outtings, poorly attended Tulane football games, and more than a decent amount of wing eating.
After college, I lost touch with Jarrod. He moved back to his home state of California. He got married to his college sweetheart, who could not have anticipated her husband’s journey, but has been a steady and constant helpmate throughout. Jarrod became a very successful engineer and a bourbon connoisseur. One of his bucket list trips took him to Kentucky, where he got to meet and became friends with bourbon “Hall of Famer” Freddie Johnson of Buffalo Trace acclaim.
Sitting in his backyard nearly 20 years after graduating from Tulane, I saw many of the same qualities I had grown to admire when we were students together. I saw a husband who doted on and supported Emily’s passions. But I also saw someone whose body had been beaten to hell and back, who was tired, and who, like Jacob, had been wrestling with God. We quickly fell back into friendship, which perhaps is the mark of good friendship.
We all have aspirations in our youth — for the kind of spouse or parent we might be, for what we might accomplish, for what we might experience. Along the way, dreams are satisfied, modified, or they die on the vine. The clock inevitably works against all of us. That night in Oceanside, California, Jarrod, a numbers guy, saw that time was not on his side. He believed, as we all would, that he still had more to give, more impact to be made, and more things to see and experience.
After that trip, Jarrod and I stayed in touch, most frequently triggered by news of his cancer. It has been mostly the bad variety in recent months. Now spread throughout his body, down to his bones, he has lived in constant pain for months. Not even a steady diet of morphine and an implanted pain pump solve for it. Jarrod’s been hospitalized twelve times just in 2023.
But his matter of fact sense of humor and way of seeing the world remains in tact. So too does his faith that despite these trials, he has always been safe in the hands of Christ.
There are people in the world who believe that life is random, disordered, and without reason. I am not among them. I think my friend is staring mortality in the face at Christmas for a reason.
For thousands of years before Christ came, there was darkness and despair. Sin and shame gripped the hearts of men. Until one holy night, God, in His infinite love, mercy and wisdom, sent His son to save. Jesus is the light of the world and the hope of man. He has won victory over death and Jarrod’s will not be the exception. Jesus came for Jarrod, and for you.
For thousands of years since Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, His disciples have been used as divine instruments to point the way to God. Jarrod is among them. If life expectancies were the measure, Jarrod would be at the midway point for most people. He’s made a lifetime of impact for the Kingdom and on other people.
So, to my friend Jarrod, you were placed here with a purpose. You have run your race. You are loved. And when this chapter closes, you will hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.” There is no greater evidence of a life well lived.
While Jarrod and Emily have been fortunate to have health insurance, their portion of the medical bills so far in 2023 have eclipsed $30,000, and Emily is facing additional uncovered expenses during Jarrod’s hospice care, including a night nurse that costs over $400 a night. If you would like to help defray the cost, a contribution can be made at their Go Fund Me page.