Loss and the Hope of Easter

The Hope of Easter Amid the Sting of Death, and WandaVision

Guest Contributor / 3.25.21

This post comes to us from Adam W. Day. He teaches Biblical Studies at the International Graduate School of Leadership in Manila, Philippines. 

My grandfather died 14 years ago. I remember going to his hospital bed daily for his last few weeks of life as his body wasted away with cancer. Medication helped him cope with the pain, but it also meant that he had few lucid moments those last few weeks. One day though, when I went to say goodbye to him, he looked at me and whispered, “I’m sorry it has to be this way.” It hit me like a punch in the gut because it revealed that he had some understanding of what was happening and everything inside of me cried out that it shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t be watching cancer destroy someone I loved, and his coherent moments should not be few and far between. It was not too long after that moment that I said goodbye to him for the last time, and the grief of the death of a loved one entered my experience.

After finishing WandaVision, my mind has returned to that instance with my grandfather as well as the grief over his loss. It might seem odd to think about death after watching a show about superheroes, but one of the reasons I enjoy superhero movies and shows is that they use the fantastical to deal with larger themes. By taking us outside of our normal lives, we can look at elements of our lives through a different lens and see our experiences more clearly than we otherwise might be able to. WandaVision did that for me (and others) on the topic of loss.

At its root, WandaVision is about grief, and the need to deal with our grief. Other essays have discussed how WandaVision portrays an unhealthy way of grieving, but there’s more to say about its vision of hope in the midst of loss.

At the end of the show, Wanda accepts her loss of Vision and prepares to say goodbye to him for the last time. She tells Vision, “You are my sadness …” Her words sound familiar to many of us.

All of us who have lost loved ones: husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, friends, grandparents, aunts, uncles — we feel the same way. My grandfather died in 2007, but his death still saddens me. There are so many events that I wish he could have seen and conversations I wish we could have had. Nothing fills the void he has left in my life. As the years go by, I see more and more how we never completely get over death and loss. Even losses from 20 or 30 years ago still bring sadness.

We talk about the stages of grief as though they are linear, but most people can attest that grief comes in waves. Every holiday, birthday, anniversary, brings fresh reminders that this person is no longer with us. Yes, we grieve as those with hope, for those whom we have lost in Christ (1 Thess 4:13), but that does not always diminish the sense of absence we feel. In the The Return of the King, Gandalf tells Frodo, “Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured.” I see more and more evidence every day that the grief over death is one of those wounds that cannot be wholly cured on this side of the kingdom.

The loved ones we have lost are indeed a sadness in our lives. But Wanda’s statement does not end with Vision being her sadness. She also says, “You are my sadness and my hope.” In the sadness that we feel, we also have hope. Our hope is not in the people we have lost, but our hope is in a person. And we have hope because of an event. We have hope in Jesus, and we have hope because of his resurrection. His resurrection tells us that he has dealt with death once and for all. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, I have hope that I will see my grandfather again. All of us who have lost people who had faith in Jesus can have hope that we will see them again at the resurrection.

As Wanda had to accept that Vision was gone, and she had to find healthy ways to deal with her grief, I have accepted that I will not see my grandfather again in this life. I had to say goodbye, and those final goodbyes sting. The sting diminishes over time, though I am not sure it will ever go away. But when I feel that sting, I remember Easter. I remember that Jesus’ disciples and friends grieved his death. They experienced sadness, confusion, disbelief, grief for three days. And then their sorrow turned to joy when they met Jesus again. They ate with him, talked with him, they experienced the joy of his presence with them again. His resurrection changed everything when it comes to how we think about death and loss. We can grieve with expectation. It may not diminish the pain we feel now, but it gives us hope.

The joy of reunion the disciples experienced with the risen Jesus is a joy we too will experience. We will have joy in meeting with Jesus, and we will also have joy at reunion with our loved ones. The sting we feel now will be overcome by the joy of a forever reunion. We long for the day when we will see with our eyes what Paul predicted in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55,

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

By being raised from the dead, Jesus defeated death for all who believe in him. His resurrection is the first of many. The many losses we experience in this life will be drowned out by the joyous reunion at Jesus’ return and our resurrection. My grandfather’s words wishing that it could have been another way will finally be true. We will not grieve over those we have lost any longer. We will not say goodbye again. There will only be one another’s presence for all eternity.

WandaVision reminds us of the pain of loss, the profound grief we feel. As we get older and watch more family and friends die, that grief becomes more pronounced, more constant. Yet the show holds out hope as well. In their last words to each other, Vision and Wanda say, “We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason … we’ll say hello again.” I said goodbye to my grandfather once, but because of Easter, because Jesus walked out of the tomb, I know I will say hello to him once again.