This Fire Funeral
By Z Zoccolante
When I was a kid, I used to tell people I wanted a Vikings funeral – lay your body on a boat and push you out into the water where archers shoot fire arrows and watch you burn from the shore.
The bible uses fire (and water) as metaphors for God’s cleansing and purification. Take these two:
And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” – Zechariah 13:9
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried . . . we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. – Psalm 66: 10-12
Refining metals with fire is a process of a craftsman sitting next to a crazy hot fire with molten gold and stirring, skimming, crushing, breaking down and the end result is pure gold, more precious, more valuable.
These days, none of us are refining gold on our spare time, but this metaphor still fits for our hearts, mind, and souls, for our faith in God or our belief that things will be ok no matter what storm may arise.
The world is strange and changing and many of us are in transitions that can at first feel like fire. As I prepare to leave my home of the last four years it’s almost as though my brain goes, hey remember that pain you felt when moving into this house and ending that relationship . . . welp, here it is again. You’re welcome.
As I wrap my head and heart around moving to a new space and a new chapter of life, I begin to go through my belongings. When my marriage ended, we had a box of things – love letter, photos, all things in relation to us. He left it behind and everything that was our life together.
With fairytale weather permeating the sky, I sit in front of the shed, on the gray concrete in my backyard, removing items from my plastic bin – our bin. Pulling photos apart my breath catches as my heart flitters through time – the week we started dating, a black and white photograph a stranger took for us in a parking lot, our hands against each other’s faces, foreheads touching, staring into each other’s eyes. Stacks of love letters, a foot tall of cards with messages I stop reading after a bit, letters from when I was at the eating disorder hospital. I scan the pages not wanting to rip open wounds deeper. There is so much history here winding back through time ages past when I was different versions of myself.
It strange to have it start at the beginning and to see it unfold through time.
Later my roommate sits across from our firepit as I throw things in what feels like forever – as I burn my old life, my old past page by page, photo by photo, love letter and card at a time, till there is nothing to remind me but memory. Prayer. I thank him for being love for me. Ho’oponopono. The truth is that he was love for me when all I wanted was to be loved. And he really did love me in all our innocence. It was real, even if it was for a pocketed moment in time, even if it doesn’t live on. Everything transitions in one form or the next like seasons passing from time to time to time.
The fire burns high orange flames erasing years of my life in ash – thinking about how he left the box behind – left me behind – maybe because I can honor our memory in a way that he couldn’t. I will traverse this for us, for the us that we were. For the reasons we had this pocket of time. I will clear out the tether of time.
Now, all I hold is my own memory and a few photos of him with my family because I want the photos with my family, my life. Sometimes people don’t stay. Maybe they weren’t meant to. As the tears roll down my face, I remind all parts of me that I’m creating space for something new. A spacious place.
I heart breathe to him, to set us free, all the connected stuck energy stored in the subconscious. I breathe in from the blue beyond and an old part of me greets me and tells me that my heart is safe now.
My fingers tear the pages and poems from the first journal I had with him. Coins are taped to a page with messages he wrote there, and a slip of paper that I taped to the side. I rip it off and stick in my pocket. It becomes the last thing I throw into the fire, remembering I wrote it to him a month after I met him. It says:
“This last month has been the happiest month of my life. Thank you.”
My roommate sits next to me and puts his head on my shoulder as the tears fall and I stare into the flames. “It’s not like he’s dead though,” he says, “I’m sorry. I’m saying the wrong thing.” And he’s quiet as he rubs my back. “True,” I say, “If he died it would be a different sadness.”
We sit in silence and watch the sparkles burn down in orange diamonds and I think, how fitting for that to be the last note to end it all, the last phrase to close the chapter, the last word of this fire eulogy . . .