February 10, 2014


Kathy didn’t know what to do; everything was happening so fast. At night, after her husband, Dan, fell asleep, Kathy knelt by their bed. “God, I’m scared. What do I have to know?”

As she knelt, Kathy felt God impressing three things upon her: Dan had a brain tumor, it was incurable, and he would go quickly.

Kathy met Dan Goddard during her first year at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. She was immediately drawn to his warm personality and sense of humor. As time went on she realized he had a “pastor’s heart.” They dated for two years and were married after Dan graduated in 1968 with a degree in theology. In terms of ministers, she said, “He was the complete package: a strong preacher, an effective administrator, and a compassionate pastor.”

Thirty-three years of marriage and three children later, Dan was invited to return to Union College as senior pastor of the College View church. After all those years, Dan and Kathy felt as if they were going home.
<strong>FACING THE FUTURE:</strong> Dan and Kathy Goddard, a few months before Dan’s health crisis.

Did You See That?

As graduation neared during their first year at Union, Kathy and their son James began to notice changes in Dan. “He kept forgetting his appointments and losing things, such as his keys and cell phone,” she said. Since Dan was by nature an organized and motivated person, these changes concerned them.

At first Kathy didn’t feel that she had to do anything, until one day she was visited by two members of Dan’s pastoral staff. “Dan is changing,” they said. They explained how Dan had started coming to the office late and forgetting important appointments. They had all noticed that his sermon the previous week had been different and unusual.

As the three compared notes, Kathy realized that something was wrong with her husband.

“Dan, where are you supposed to be?” Kathy asked that evening.

Dan looked up from the television, confused at his wife’s question. Kathy and James explained that he had missed three appointments that evening, along with many others during the previous week. They told him about other changes they had seen in him, and how he seemed like a different person.

Dan seemed not to understand what they were saying.

“Dad, you just don’t get it,” James explained. “There’s something terribly wrong with you. You’ve changed.”

“I have?” Dan asked with a confused look, seemingly unaware of what was going on.

“I’ve made a doctor’s appointment for you tomorrow morning,” Kathy said.

Dan went to bed confused and upset.

Shocking Diagnosis

The next morning they went to Dan’s medical doctor. As the examination went on, Kathy began to panic and feel scared. Dan couldn’t even walk a straight line. She knew that this was not a stress-related health issue, as she had thought, but something organic. The doctor scheduled an MRI for the following Monday.

That Friday after the doctor’s appointment was different than any other Friday night in their home. Kathy was terrified and cried out to God. After Dan went to sleep, she knelt down and prayed. “God, I’m scared.”

Kathy went to bed, and the next morning she dismissed the impression, thinking she was just jumping to the worst conclusion.

sidebar contentAs the next week wore on, Kathy learned that God had been speaking to her. Dan’s MRI showed he had a brain tumor. The doctor explained that even if it was benign, it was impossible to operate on because it sat on top of his brain stem. A biopsy showed that the tumor was a stage-four glioblastoma, an incurable type of tumor.

The next Sabbath, Dan preached his last sermon, which he called “Expect a Miracle.” College View church, which normally held 2,000 people, was packed with more than 3,000 there to hear Dan speak. Kathy and Dan’s two sons stood on either side of him for support. They had all been worried that Dan wouldn’t be able to finish. But with the prayers of his church members, he finished the entire sermon about the miracle of changed attitudes. He said that even if God didn’t heal him, he would continue to trust Him.

Dan also had conversations with his children and Kathy about what was going on. He didn’t want what was happening to him to cause a faith crisis in their lives. In the last weeks of his life Dan frequently quoted 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

“Dan’s faith made it easier for me,” Kathy says, remembering this difficult time in her life. “He was peaceful. He didn’t blame God.”

Dan quickly began to deteriorate. Within a month, he couldn’t do anything for himself. Exactly two months after the day of his first doctor’s appointment, Dan passed away.

Looking back, Kathy says, “Some people would think I’m crazy because I say I can hear God’s voice. It’s not an audible voice, but I know it’s the voice of the Holy Spirit.

“God got me ready that night I cried out to Him.”

Since Dan’s death, Kathy has devoted her life to teaching, traveling, and doing mission work. She teaches composition and creative writing as an associate professor of English at Southern Adventist University. Her trust in God has helped her through her experiences and inspired others.

“Life is a journey,” Kathy says. “It can be the pits, or an adventure.”