63: Eggs and Rabbits

Easter is coming up. I don’t have too many thoughts on this occasion but I do have a few memories I thought I could share. When I was younger my family was quite religious. I was never forced into any particular faith by either of my parents but I was keen to attend church and I found a great deal of comfort in the routine and structure of it. After my parents separated my mother, younger sister and I began attending church every Sunday. This continued until I was in my teens and I began to seriously question my faith. These facts feel important to the stories I am about to recount as Easter is a religious holiday.

For most of my life I was raised to only eat fish on Good Friday. One year my family took a road trip to visit our relatives for Easter. I remember getting a burger for lunch without even realising it was the day we were never permitted to eat red meat. I felt so terrible about it afterward. My conscience told me that I had just committed some kind of sin. I was so scared of going to hell that I prayed for forgiveness for days.

The Good Friday rule of “fish only” has caused some awkward moments. Many of my friends growing up had different beliefs, some had never even heard of our rule and only observed Good Friday as a public holiday. When I was fifteen I spent Good Friday at my first boyfriend’s house. I had to awkwardly request fish for lunch. I felt like such an inconvenience but as we were already going to a local takeaway it wasn’t a big deal. Coincidently that Good Friday was also the day I experienced my first kiss so I suppose my request didn’t make me seem too strange.

The thing I loved the most about Easter was the chocolate eggs. I have always had an extremely sweet tooth. Growing up I loved sweets like most children but chocolate has always been my favourite treat. This made Easter one of my favourite holidays. I suppose if Australia celebrated Halloween like other places in the world then that would have become my favourite holiday. In Australia Halloween is only just beginning to become more popular but many households still dislike trick-or-treaters and will ignore them. Easter is much more mainstream and acceptable here. The supermarkets begin selling chocolate eggs and hot cross buns from New Year’s Day! Easter, much like Christmas, has grown from a religious celebration to be a commercial holiday. As much as I love chocolate it does seem odd to me that a religious occasion is so widely observed by so many people with impartial beliefs.

I’m torn about the ethical ramifications of introducing Easter to my future children. On one hand i know that my husband and I aren’t religious. We both have had a relationship with church in our past. Regardless of our faith or beliefs we are no longer church goers and would not consider ourselves followers of a particular religion. I would describe myself as agnostic. However on the other hand it seems wrong to deprive a child of such a joyful holiday that has changed meaning for so many people and is so widely visible. This moral dilemma is a slippery slope considering that Christmas is also so commonly celebrated regardless of religious belief.

I know we will celebrate both of these occasions with our children. It is not even up for debate in our social sphere. I just can’t help but wonder why that is.

Chapter 14: The End.

I am absolutely terrified of dying. I always have been which I’m told is irrational because it’s something I definitely can’t control. There have been nights where I can’t sleep because I’m completely consumed with the simple knowledge that one day I will die. This has been known to spark a panic attack which are not unusual for me. I’m asked if I stay awake in worry because I’m concerned I might die in my sleep. This is not the case, I know I’m young and although possible that is very unlikely, but when I lay down for sleep the silence in my head is quickly filled with dread.

I’ve been told I won’t know that I’m dead so it doesn’t matter. This is not reassuring and I don’t know how people think it would be. This is a very big part of my problem. I am my consciousness, how do I know anything exists unless I am able I experience it. I don’t mean this is the way that people say they can’t believe in God because they can’t see him. I mean this in the way that everything I see, hear, taste, touch, remember, belief, love and experience makes up who I am and tells me that I am alive. If I don’t know when I am dead, how did I ever know I existed. I don’t mean in the grand scheme of the universe, I know my life lives on through the memory of my friends and family. I mean my awareness of myself dies with me and I’m just gone.

This is difficult to process and is extremely depressing. This scared me even as a child and I feel as though maybe this was why I sought out some form of religion. For me it was Christianity. My mother has a lot of faith and enjoys going to church. For years we went to church as a family. My sister and I were never forced to go or forced into any kind of belief. We were educated by both our parents on the basics of a few different religions and given the option to investigate them further if we decided that was what we felt drawn to.

I went to public school here in Australia. Although these schools are government run we still had a school prayer. We also had scripture lessons where once a week a teacher who was involved in the church would come into our class and play games or tell us a story from the bible. We would colour-in and pray or sing. When I first started school I was given rosary beads during one of these sessions. I became obsessed with doing my rosary before bed. My intense anxiety surrounding death was eased by the concept of an afterlife and the routine of this repetitive task helped to calm my mind and put myself to sleep. I slowly stopped doing the rosary after a while.

Over the years I have experienced a few services at different branches of Christianity. My mother, sister and I we went to the Salvation Army for a while. We liked it. My mother became involved in several church activities. When we moved to a rural area my family went to an Anglican Church for a while. I was really invested in trying to believe. I became involved in starting a youth group at my church, which during my attendance never grew past 4 or 5 teenagers, I helped with Sunday school and the nativity at Christmas time. I was in high-school and eventually stopped going. I now identify as Agnostic. I feel sometimes this is because I can’t allow myself to completely abandon what I grew up believing.

I have an interest in history and even considered studying philosophy but both of these topics cause me to become tense. I know that it is very unlikely that I will ever find something to ease my fear. I think about all the people who have lived and died. Those who have walked the same paths and seen the same things I have. I wonder what will happen to me when I die. I struggled as a child with nightmares that I would be buried alive or awake being cremated. I eased these fears by deciding to be an organ donor and talking to my parents about what I would want my funeral to be like. Some children plan their future weddings but I was a little darker than that. I won’t know if my wishes are ever met but it helps to think that I have some control over my own death.