I think of the lines in I Corinthians, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels ... and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
I think of the funeral pyre, the crematorium, how my mother freaked out when we said it was too late to donate her body to science, that we hadn't filled out the paperwork for the anatomy board in time, and she said "Cremate me. I don't want to be buried. I don't want to be put in the ground. I'd rather burn."
So they did. She came back to us in a small white box I've never opened, what the funeral parlor director called her "cremains," which I wonder is a word at all or a new euphemism they created just for this purpose. Cremains? It's her ashes, her ashes I suppose and pieces of bone, the whole of her - her body, her life - reduced and compacted to a square white box that now lives in my father's dining room cabinet.
A transformation - a purging - a reducing down to what's left over, condensed. Trial by fire. I thought my own trial would be by water, submerged, trying to take a breath and only having my lungs fill with water like the dreams where I am drowning. But now I imagine her on a funeral pyre, in a box slid into an incinerator - burn it all away, consumed by flames until we only have what's left.
No more water but the fire next time....
I want to burn. I want to burn from the inside out because I am tired of drowning. Trial by fire and emerge still standing after the ordeal. To feel the heat instead of the cold drowsy numbness, not to be frozen and stagnant but lividly transformed. To offer my body to be burned - the thing I'm afraid of most - to feed the fire.