Eulogy for Lloyd Jersak
Lloyd Jersak’s eulogy is a distillation of memories he shared with his sons, Rodney and Bradley, one month ago.
Lloyd Jersak was born on August 28, 1937, to Jaroslav and Emilie Jersak, and was delivered in their farm home outside Minitonas, Manitoba. He grew up in a close-knit family, with devoted parents and his beloved brothers, George and Henry, whose abiding friendship he held very dear.
Lloyd’s education started in Floradale, the one-room country school where he first learned English at the age of seven. Each school day began with the National Anthem, the Lord’s Prayer, and a Scripture reading. At the end of the school day, his class would stand at attention to sing “God save our King” (George VI). After school, he helped with student chores, such as sweeping, cleaning blackboard brushes, and bringing firewood into the furnace room. He then headed home on foot, by horse, or later, on his bike.
Lloyd also recalled childhood chores at home—bringing clean snow into the house for his mom to thaw for soft-water hairwashing, piling firewood and bringing it to the basement for the wood furnace, cleaning manure out from the barn, and gathering eggs. Later, he was promoted to the fields, picking stones and roots, cultivating with the tractor, and hauling grain during harvest.
Lloyd’s attended Minitonas Junior High and High School about the time the railway transitioned from steam locomotives to diesel. During that time, he and his friends were introduced to brass music lessons by a family friend. Many of the Czech newcomers came with musical skills and instruments—brass, woodwind, and percussion. He joined the First Czechoslovak Baptist Church’s rather impressive brass band and his love for playing brass horns continued throughout his whole life, often crashing village squares, inner city streets, or the fields of Mayfair Colony with his solo flash concerts.
After leaving home, Lloyd attended United College in downtown Winnipeg and then the U. of M. in Fort Garry. The transition from small, individualized classrooms to impersonal lecture theatres, independent boarding, and campus residence was a big adjustment, but he successfully earned several degrees—a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Pedagogy, then completed all his coursework in graduate studies geography.
That was where he also developed a lifelong love for volleyball, was a starter first with the Manitoba Bisons, then Central YMCA, and his team was ultimately inducted into the Manitoba Volleyball Hall of Fame.
At that time, while attending university in 1962, Lloyd met Irene at Grant Memorial Baptist Church youth group. After what he described as a fairly short and intense courtship, they were married on May 4, 1963, at Grant Memorial Baptist Church by Rev. Frank Zagunis—meaning that Lloyd and Irene reached their diamond jubilee anniversary earlier this month. Through six decades, the thing Dad admired most was Irene’s faithfulness to our family despite their challenges.
Before long, two sons, Bradley and Rodney, made their arrival in ‘64 and ‘66. They experienced Lloyd as a supportive dad, who took great joy in teaching them sports, joining them in work projects, and cheering them on from their childhood until his last days.
In 1964, Lloyd entered the workforce in Ottawa as an Air-Photo Interpreter for the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys. He and Irene moved to Winnipeg where he became Chief of the Land-Use Sector for the next seven years. He oversaw the completion of mapping the Province of Manitoba using air photos.
In 1972, the Jersak family made its biggest move to Killarney, where Lloyd worked for the Manitoba Department of Agriculture (seven years) and then became Regional Manager for the Provincial Dept. of Family Services until his early retirement in 1993.
Beyond his employment history, Lloyd also had a strong sense of calling to serve as a lay minister in significant ways. He sat on the Calvary Baptist Church board, often as Chair, for multiple terms. Rodney and Bradley also remember how Irene and Lloyd would billet visiting missionaries from Africa, South America, and Asia in our home.
Lloyd was always drawn to voluntary service outside the church. In 1968, he and his older brother George welcomed immigrants fleeing Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring, served as translators, arranged temporary shelter, and taught English classes. In the mid-1970s, he was involved in helping Vietnamese refugees relocate to Canada. And in 19 93, he used his retirement severance to finance a journey to Haiti with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, after which he established a “Pennies for Haiti” fund for political prisoners. He also found volunteer work for Canadian Foodgrains Bank very life-giving.
Over the last three decades, Lloyd’s focus was directed more and more to his family and friend connections. He loved in-person, phone, or email visits with his brothers, in-laws, and extended family. He especially relished his regular phone calls with Henry, and frequent coffees and pie with Gary Ditchfield at the farm auction. You could find him tracking down his buddies in town, or telling tall tales at the Mayfair colony.
Most of all, he was constantly thinking about and praying for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Part of his daily routine included repeated check-ups on the most recent news of their education, careers, and relationships. He and Irene especially enjoyed the latest photos and videos of their great-grandchildren, which was their shared highlight of the day. He openly expressed his love for Anya, Ava, Emielia, Dominic, Justice, and Stephen. Being able to see all the grandchildren during the last year was a tremendous joy for him, and holding baby Felix for the first time was an unspeakable blessing.
Lloyd wished he could have met his granddaughter Ahhyeon, who lives in Korea, and he had so hoped he could attend Emielia and Noah’s wedding But we know he’s present in spirit as part of the ‘great cloud of witnesses.’
Lloyd’s testimony was that his peace with God came, not through a long resume of good deeds, but by his direct experience of the Amazing Grace of Jesus. One Bible verse he highlighted in his pocket New Testament was, “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5). He took deep comfort in the promise of Isaiah 1:18, “…though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
When Lloyd Jersak passed away on May 20, 2023, he spent several marathon days with Irene at his side, was joined by their friend Chris Friesen, and then, 90 minutes before his death, Rodney and Elisa Jersak, and their daughters Emielia, Ava, and Anya were with him. When he departed, he was listening to trombone renditions of “Amazing Grace” and “It Is Well with My Soul,” and left with a reading of Psalm 23.
He is survived by his wife, Irene, his sons, Bradley and Rodney, daughters-in-law, Eden and Elisa, grandchildren Stephen, Justice, Dominic, Emielia, Ava, and Anya, and two great-grandchildren, Ahhyeon and Felix.
Funeral Message: “Sorry for your loss”
by Bradley Jersak
“Sorry for your loss.”
Since my father, Lloyd Jersak, passed away, countless people have kindly expressed their care for my family with the words, “Sorry for your loss.” I’m deeply moved by that expression because it’s a beautiful statement of empathy. It can mean either “I’m sorrowing with you,” or “I’m sad for the sorrow you’re experiencing.”
But the expression also strikes me as kind of funny. When someone says, “Sorry for your loss,” a cheeky part of me wants to answer, “I forgive you. I knew it must be your fault.” Chalk it up to grief’s dark, deflective humour.
But I do genuinely appreciate the kindness in those words, and I feel their genuine care for my loss.
“Loss.” Yes and no.
Yes, loss is a very real part of our story.
We’ve lost him. He’s departed. He left us.
Which begs the question, to where?
Where is Lloyd?
Where are our departed loved ones?
We talk about it in different ways:
“They’re In heaven.”
“They’re up there.”
“They’re in the wide blue yonder.”
“They’ve crossed the river.”
And there’s a kind of comfort in thinking about Dad in heaven or in Paradise if we’re just hoping he went to “the Good Place.”
But it also highlights the loss, because after all,
“Yonder” means far away.
“Heaven” can seem like a faraway place.
We point up, as if he’s somewhere “in the sky, in the sweet by and by.”
Or maybe an altogether distant dimension.
And the reality is, we don’t know. The afterlife is a mystery.
But what we know for sure, conceiving of it that way:
These expressions describe a painful kind of absence;
they trigger a keen sense of loss;
they remind of things we’ll never experience with my dad again.
We’ll miss being held in his arms and hugged in the flesh.
We’ll miss pie and coffee with him at the farmer’s market.
We’ll miss the stories he promised would only last three minutes.
He’s not here with us in those ways anymore.
But there’s also a comforting truth about heaven we can hold by faith.
We can imagine Dad experiencing his final rest and peace.
A ‘place’ where there are no more tears or pain and the agony of his final days is over.
A joyful reunion of Lloyd with family members who’ve gone before.
As Dad’s brother-in-law, my Uncle Lloyd Ditchfield, was dying, he slipped into a coma that his doctors didn’t expect him to return from. And yet he came back briefly to report a near-death experience. While in his coma, he saw his mom (my Granny) Elsie Ditchfield and his older brother Gordon. They were standing in a field, beckoning him, welcoming him home. Whatever we make of such experiences, what we know is that the experience itself was real to him and gave him peace as he faced his death.
So now, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope;
we don’t believe in death the same way anymore;
our faith offers something better than mere memories.
But still… for us, if we only think of heaven as a departure to somewhere else and somewhen else, the sense of loss and absence today can overwhelm our hope of reuniting with him again “in the great beyond.”
In our grieving, the Scriptures offer a deeper comfort, suggesting we think about Dad in a new kind of presence. We find it becomes more fruitful to think about his nearness.
Paul the apostle once wrote that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Notice how he says, “Present with the Lord” and NOT “absent with the Lord.”
Here’s the simple math:
Lloyd is not absent with the Lord who is absent from us.
Lloyd is present with the Lord who is present with us.
The Lord promised, “I am with you always” and “I will never leave you.”
So, if our loved ones are present with the Lord, they are also still with us, just in a new way. And perhaps they are nearer than they ever were in this life.
While it was good to visit my dad once a year, in person, in the flesh, and I will miss that, at the same time, now I can visit with him any time I want to, and ‘death’ isn’t really the right word for what’s happening. As Jesus said of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a millennium after their earthly lives, “God is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
How so? The good news is that with the resurrection of Christ, death has been defeated, somehow renovated from a shadowy place non-existence to a place of brightness and refreshing.
As Tolkien’s Gandalf said,
The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Beautiful, but oh, still too far away, I’d say.
The Christian hope is that Dad truly has joined what the Bible calls the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that surrounds us. SURROUNDS us.
The Apostles’ Creed calls this common fellowship “the communion of the saints.”
Listen to Hebrews 12, personalized for all those who are gathered in the presence of Christ:
But you [Irene, Rodney, Henry, Gary] have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly; you have come to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, you have come to the spirits of righteous men and women made perfect, you have come to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…”
Did you notice: we HAVE come there. Already. In this life.
And whenever we come there, God is there, the angels are there, the saints are there.
And now Lloyd is there too, worshiping God and praying for us today.
In other words, Lloyd stands at the very same throne of grace—the mercy seat of Jesus—that we attend every time we pray, every time we worship, every time we’re mindful of grace, and every time we’re grateful. We’re sharing space on sacred ground. Indeed, we can even say to him the things we left unsaid.
My friend, Dr. Steve Mitchinson, is a palliative care physician and theologian.
He has written in his book, Dying for Life, that the first Christians spoke of dying as rebirth.
As Ignatius of Antioch said to his friends as he faced martyrdom, “Don’t prevent me from being born.”
Death, in this model, is no longer regarded as a dead end but as a birth canal to new life. Or to mix the metaphor, even Dad’s suffering was a kind of labor that foretold and preceded his own rebirth to eternal life.
When our friend, Chris Friesen, stayed up with mom to see Dad through his last night on earth, what was she doing? Chris, you were being a good midwife. And when Dad’s granddaughters held his hand in his final hours, they were being doulas, helping their grandpa breathe through transition.
So, for Lloyd, dying was and is not the end. His tomb became a womb. And truly, when we speak of the afterlife, we are as clueless as babies in the womb, speculating what life will be like outside after their birth into the big, wide world.
But it now just in the dying process. Our whole lives are a kind of womb, where like Lloyd, the Bible says we are being “transformed from glory to glory into the image of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The word for transformed in that verse is literally metamorphosis—like the process of a caterpillar passing through the cocoon stage into new life a butterfly.
By faith, I believe this is Dad’s experience.
With that biblical foundation, I’ll close with an ancient and traditional prayer for the ‘departed,’ knowing that it’s more for our peace and comfort than for Lloyd:
O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who has trampled down death and overthrown the devil, and given life to your world, we ask You, the same Lord, to give rest to the soul of your departed servant Lloyd Jersak, in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away. Pardon every transgression that he had committed, whether by word or deed or thought. For you are a good and merciful God and you love mankind; because there is no one who lived without sin but you, and your righteousness is to all eternity, and your word is truth.
For you are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of your servant Lloyd, who has fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and to You, we ascribe glory, together with your Father, who is from everlasting, and your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever unto ages of ages.