JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) - Last year, pastor Tim Maynard felt like he “stole Easter” from Fruit Cove Baptist Church by announcing his wife Pam would undergo surgery for an advanced-stage brain tumor the following day. He also shared he would take an indefinite leave from pastoral ministry to care for her.
That leave ended up being four months and culminated in Pam's death.
A year later, Maynard, 63, observed his first Easter without Pam by presenting their Jacksonville, Fla., church with a book about his experience: I Bear Witness: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Goodness of God.
“I really wanted this Easter to be different,” Maynard told Baptist Press. “I wanted this to be a celebration of resurrection and of God’s bringing good out of bad.”
The self-published book, released Easter Sunday, “is an expression of the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said Maynard, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, a former Florida Baptist Convention president and a former Kentucky Baptist pastor. “And the fact we got through this [trial] is proof that He is risen.”
The Maynards’ journey with cancer began in late winter 2017. What they thought was carpal tunnel syndrome gave way to an impaired gait and eventually led neurologists to discover an aggressive three-centimeter tumor in Pam’s brain.
A six-hour surgery the day after Easter initially seemed to have gone well. But bleeding necessitated a follow-up surgery, which left Pam with a measure of paralysis and speech impairment for the remaining four months of her life.
The cancer spread, and she succumbed to it at home Aug. 5, surrounded by her family.
Tim Maynard had begun to write about the experience in late spring and completed his book several months later - partly as an act of personal healing, partly as a ministry to Fruit Cove and partly to help their 1-year-old granddaughter McCail know her “Mamaw.”
In a preface addressed to McCail, Maynard wrote, “I am writing this with tears flowing because I remember [Pam] making me promise that I wouldn't let you forget who she was and how much she loved you. I told her this: Every time your granddaughter looks into the mirror, she will see your eyes looking back at her!”
This Easter at Fruit Cove, where Maynard has served 25 years, he signed copies of his book. He told BP the memoir was “almost an accountability report to the church” on his leave of absence as well as an expression of gratitude for their kindness through the trial.
The church “brought us 110 days’ worth of meals in a row,” Maynard said. They “were there for us and continually encouraged in emails and Facebook posts, phone calls and everything else.”
The “pastor’s heart in me was compelled to want to help people deal with” Pam’s illness, Maynard said, adding the church was “crushed” at her death. But “the husband’s heart in me” felt “called to stay home and take care of my wife.”
This Easter he expressed that pastoral compulsion during a portion of the sermon on Paul’s goal “to know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
“I don’t want to just say Pam was resurrected when she died,” Maynard recalled telling the congregation, “because that's exactly what Jesus said is not right. He said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life now.’”
Pam “was resurrected spiritually when she was an 11-year-old girl and she gave her heart to Jesus. All her death did was change her address for a little while. She was no more resurrected when she died on Aug. 5 than she was the day she gave her heart to Jesus and died to herself,” Maynard said, noting his wife’s soul is with Jesus even while she awaits a future bodily resurrection at Christ’s second coming.
Even while living as spiritually resurrected believers, Maynard said, followers of Jesus “are going to have trials.” The book “talks about what that looks like.”
Yet Maynard confessed he’s “a little jealous” of Pam now that “she knows why she went through what she went through” while “I don’t have all the answers.”
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.