Dennis Goodwin always enjoyed seeing the shock on friends’ faces when he told them he was born in Cuba—Alabama, that is.
The son of a school teacher and bank cashier, he was the oldest of three red-headed boys. Cuba was the perfect place for adventure, exploring and experiencing life in an old-fashioned way. After high school, Livingston University, a two-year missionary experience in Korea, and Southwestern Seminary, Dennis felt in his love for people the desire to serve God.
Twelve houses and six churches later, we came to live in beautiful Birmingham, along with our three-year-old son. Over the next 15 years, there were financial challenges, occupational changes, and just when life seemed to finally settle down, prostate cancer entered our lives.
Dennis’ father and grandfather had died at young ages from heart disease, so we were always guarded about that possibility, never expecting prostate cancer, a silent disease that can attack the body when one is unaware. Dennis was a very young 49, a minister to senior adults at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church with a full life ahead. But as the year 2000 began, he had surgery to remove his prostate We prayed for a cure, but in less than two years, radiation was needed. Again, we hoped the cancer would not return, but over a ten-year span, many other treatments were needed with small time intervals in between of enjoyed good health. Dennis lost his battle with prostate cancer at the age of 59.
I believe the real value of a person’s life is seen in how it impacted others. He left me with many valuable life tools. His strong faith became more and more evident in his last years. I noted great courage as he struggled with cancer. He demonstrated love in always seeking the best for others and showed humility in dealing with the reality of his mortality.
For almost five years, he had a decorating business and delighted in helping people take their old things and make them look new by arranging them differently or putting them in a different room in their house. It was never about making money. He loved going into a restaurant and asking the waiter if there was anything heavy on his heart, and he offered to pray for that person right then and there.
I remember him being in great pain after the cancer spread throughout his body. When a young man he was ministering to was put in jail, in spite of the pain, Dennis went to bail him out. When I had my 40th birthday, my loving husband had a dozen roses delivered to me each hour for four hours at my workplace, each delivery with a loving note.
Many times the most valuable lessons are learned through heartache and suffering. Things that come easy are not always what´s best. Throughout his fight with cancer, Dennis continued to trust that God had the master plan. He lived each day as a gift to be treasured. Dennis chose to have a positive outlook on life, focusing on others rather than himself. As friends would visit our home to minister to him, they were uplifted by encouraging words from a dying man.
This year the Tour de Blue bicycle ride will be held in Birmingham on April 28 in Dennis’ memory to raise money for prostate cancer testing for men in underprivileged areas of Alabama. Three months before Dennis died, he spoke to a group of men at a Man-to-Man prostate cancer meeting at Urology Centers of Alabama regarding his “Bucket List.” Little did we know that his speech would now be accessible via the Internet to encourage others who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer (urologyhealthfoundation.org).
The author of this poem is unknown, but I believe this has an important message for all of us regarding life:
THE MEASURE OF A MAN Anonymous
Not - How did he die?
But - How did he live?
Not - What did he gain? But - What did he give?
These are the things that measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
Not - What was his station?
But - Had he a heart?
And - How did he play his God-given part?
Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer?
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not - What was his church?
Not - What was his creed?
But - Had he befriended those really in need?
Not - What did the sketch in the newspaper say?
But - How many were sorry when he passed away?