Evan Sagerman: The Ice Storm

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A funeral. A eulogy. An ice storm. Evan Sagerman puts his father to rest.

My father died on Tuesday, February 1st. He was 92. As my brothers on the East Coast made the funeral arrangements, they assigned me the job of delivering the eulogy.

Jewish funerals take place as soon after death as possible, so the funeral was scheduled for Friday. Unfortunately, an ice storm was going to hit the Hudson River Valley that day, making travel impossible. Then on Wednesday my mother tested positive for COVID, making an indoor ceremony impossible. An outdoor, graveside ceremony was set for noon on Sunday.

The aftermath of an ice storm is usually broken tree limbs, downed power lines, and treacherous footing. The high temperature for Sunday was expected to be in the teens. Not a good time to gather outside.

As my wife graciously handled cross-country travel logistics, I worked on the eulogy. Below freezing temperatures meant I would need to keep it short. Everyone at the ceremony would be family, so I would skip formality. Grief hits unexpectedly and can screw up any reading, so I would write an outline and ad lib. Come Sunday, as we left our hotel for the cemetery, I felt as prepared as I could be.


What I wasn’t prepared for was the cemetery after the ice storm. The graveyard was a snowy rectangle cut out of a forest. A bright sun floated in a pale blue sky. Ice coated every limb, branch, and twig, all of them sparkling in the light. As the wind filtered through the trees, the ice tinkled like thousands of chimes. It was pure winter magic.

In some ways the beauty made delivering the eulogy easier. The light and sound dancing in the air distracted me from my sorrow. In some ways the beauty made it worse. I had to push my mind hard to remember my father’s body was inside that cold pine box next to me. I spoke and I cried, but part of me held back from grief. The icy magic of the day was too rare and wonderful not to be enjoyed.

That’s ok. I know grief will reach out for me at its own unscripted pace. But for now when I close my eyes I see blue sky and sunlight dancing through sparkling trees.

With a Perspective, I’m Evan Sagerman.

Evan Sagerman is a San Francisco architect and children's book author.