Notes from the Celebration of the Life of Virginia (Ginger) Frerichs
11:00 A.M., Saturday March 31, 2012
Service conducted by Linus Morris at the home of Linus and Sharon Morris:
Virginia (Ginger) Frerichs was born December 3, 1934 in Glenridge, New Jersey and grew up as an only child. She died March 26, 2012 in the Pacific Palisades, California, her home for forty-three years.
Ginger studied at Wood College in Frrdrick, Maryland where she was a Spanish language major. She became quite proficient in Spanish and French, and spoke some Italian and Catalan. Upon graduating from college, Ginger traveled and backpacked through Europe with a friend for four months.
Returning to the U.S., Ginger worked as a secretary with the Episcopal Diocese in New York City. In 1956 she traveled to Del Mar, California to work at the Del Mar Fair for the summer. She talked a girlfriend into joining her in California and then got a job with the Santa Monica Police Department as a secretary for the chief of police and as an assistant in the personnel department.
In 1958, she met Ron Frerichs at the young adults 20 Club, part of the Santa Monica Presbyterian Church where Ginger attended. Ron was a bit wild, having been recently discharged from the U.S. Navy. Ron got himself in trouble after drinking too much one night so Ginger’s contacts with the police department helped him from getting in trouble with the police.
Ginger and Ron spent a lot of time together that next year and were married on September 3, 1960. They honeymooned in La Jolla, California where they went surfing and dove hunting. They continued their honeymoon in the Sierras backpacking, fishing and camping—no tent, just a tarp and sleeping bags. (By the way, Ron never messed around drinking again after he married Ginger).
Ron and Ginger moved to the Pacific Palisades in 1964. Ron worked in the construction industry and Ginger got a job with the church they attended. Over the years Ginger also worked with exceptional children, was a teacher with Head Start, worked with handicapped children at UCLA, and interpreted Spanish at Santa Monica Hospital for twenty years. She also helped organize library book sales, worked in the movie industry for both Selznik and Paulis production companies, and painted over graffiti in her neighborhood. Ginger played badminton and tennis, liked photography, hiking, restoring fly fishing rods and line-dancing.
Sharon and I met Ron and Ginger when we moved into our Palisades house next to theirs in 1969. It was our privilege to be neighbors for forty-three years, although we moved away for twenty-one years, with stints in France, Holland and Thousand Oaks. Ginger had nick names for different members of our family. Our daughter Leslie was “Leslie Gar-bage” (her French pronunciation of Leslie’s job of taking out the garbage), son Linus Jr was “Mountain Man,” and I was “Big-L.” I would frequently hear her say as we saw each other, “Big-L, how’s it going?”
We knew the healthy, hearty and active Ginger, who always had time to visit. We moved away after eleven years from 1980 to 2001, renting out our house. We returned to the Palisades in 2001 just before the tragedy of 9/11. It was long after our return that we began to see Ginger change. She was the same in many ways but agitated on occasions.
As the years passed, she became more and more distressed and confused. She came over to our house frequently to tell us that some man she didn’t know was in her house. We would walk her back home and assure her that it was her husband Ron and that Ron was her husband. She began to talk about “her other house,” somewhere on the other side of Temescal Canyon Road in the Pacific Palisades. We would assure her that her house was next door and that we were her neighbors. Sometimes to soothe her, Ron would drive her around the block, then pull up next door and Ginger would realize she was home.
Sharon and I agonized, as I am sure all of our neighbors did, to see Ginger decline, though she was still sharp and engaging in so many ways. Ron fought to keep her home and care for her. We agonized again to see her more and more confused and then decline physically requiring hospitalization. Sharon and I went to see her in the nursing care facility—to pray with her at Ron’s request. We had prayed with Ginger on many occasions. It often calmed her and she always expressed appreciation and gratitude. In the last days we agonized even more as we saw Ginger lose her English, then her Spanish and then quickly decline even more physically. Now she is gone—and we miss her.
We grieve with Ron, though no feels the loss of Ginger as much as Ron. I asked Ron if her could talk with Ginger once more and she could comprehend, what he would tell her? He replied with tears streaming down his cheeks, “It’s been a good life with you. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Ron and I talked a day after Ginger’s passing and he said, “She’s with the good Lord now.” He then reflectively commented that he hoped God would not hold Ginger’s swearing against her.” Ginger at times broke out with some salty expressions. Those who knew her weren’t offended. Out of curiosity, I asked Ron when she began to swear like that and if she had done it all the years of their marriage. Ron said it began around 2001 when the first signs of dementia appeared.
I want to assure Ron that God does not have anyone guarding His presence against anyone who has ever used profanity. Most of us would be in trouble if He did. The Bible tells us clearly that God is compassionate, gracious and merciful. He sent His Son Jesus to take all our blemishes and brokenness upon Himself, so that we could be made right with God through His sacrifice.
Through Jesus we can be forgiven. This is the core message of the Bible: we are broken but God sent Jesus to rescue us from our brokenness, so that through Him we can be forgiven and made right with God. Most of us are put-off by churches that fall short of the core message of the Bible. But churches are like an old box that is not very attractive. The core message, contained inside that not-so-attractive box, however, is what is beautiful and what makes us beautiful before God. All of us are blemished. All of us fall short of God’s design. All of us are hypocrites, in one way or another.
The core message of Jesus and His love and sacrifice for us is like a beautiful, unblemished, crystal vase inside an old box. That beautiful vase is the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to make us right with God. It is when we open our hearts to Jesus as the risen, Savior-Lord that puts us right with God and makes us like a crystal vase as well.
I know that Ginger was drawn to the core message of the Bible. From growing up attending the Episcopal Church in New Jersey, to working for the Episcopal diocese in New York, to being part of the 20 Club of the Presbyterian church in Santa Monica, to her years of attending church in the Palisades, Ginger was drawn to the core message…contained in cardboard boxes.
I know that Ginger was responsive to the core message of God’s saving work through Jesus by the hymns we heard her play on the piano so often. One of her favorite hymns was Amazing Grace, written by John Newton who himself was a slave trader (certainly worse than using profanity). After giving his to Jesus, Newton wrote:
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Sharon and I know that Ginger was responsive to the core message of the Bible from the many times we prayed with her. Each time we prayed, calmness came over Ginger, and agitation and fear subsided. Each time we prayed with her she thanked us profusely. We were always humbled by her response and honored to be her friend and neighbor.
And so, do you know that other home Ginger kept trying to get us to take her to? She’s there now—but it wasn’t on the other side of Temescal Canyon in the Palisades. Jesus spoke of it when he said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1-4).
And do you know that “other man” Ginger thought was in her house beside Ron? He wasn’t there…or maybe He was. She is with that other man now—Jesus, who said,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7).
And do you know what Ginger is doing in the presence of Jesus? She’s line-dancing, switching back and forth from English, to Spanish, to French, to Italian, to Catalan, and probably a lot of other languages, saying,
“Jesus, amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me (like us all), I once was lost but now I found, was blind but now I see.”
She is saying,
“Jesus thank you for coming for me, for dying for me, for saving me, and giving me new life.”
And do you know what else she’s saying?
“Jesus, would you make a place for my husband Ron. And would you make a place for my friends and relatives. And would you make a place for my neighbors in the Palisades.
Please pray with me:
Father, thank your for Ginger and thank you for her responsiveness to you and what you did in sending Jesus as a sacrifice for us. Thank you that if she was the only person who ever lived Jesus would have come and died for her. Thank you that through Jesus she has new life and is healthy once more. Lord, I pray that each of here might open our hearts to Jesus too and embrace His love and forgiveness. That we might open our hearts to the new life He offers. I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.