RIP Annette Funicello

I’ve never been a fan of the beanie style Mickey Mouse ears, nor did I spend a great deal of time watching the Mickey Mouse club…the original show was before my time. However, I’ve always thought Annette Funicello looked like a sweetheart. Remember the Skippy Peanut butter commercials she used to do? Each time I saw one of those I always thought she must be the nicest mom. She seemed to expel an aura that made you think you could walk up to her & strike up a casual conversation. Perhaps my favorite characteristic of Annette…she looked normal in a swimsuit. All those movies from the mid to late 60s had her in various swimsuits. She looked great! Not rail thin.

She passed away today due to “complications of multiple sclerosis.” That is perhaps the real reason I identify with Annette. She lost her battle with MS. As a fellow MS compatriot, this deeply saddens me.

I vaguely remember when Annette announced she had MS. I believe it was to combat nasty rumors that she’d been battling alcoholism. The reality was much different. She was battling a disease and one that would affect her abilities in such a way that would make her appear drunk. Alcohol, however, was not the culprit. Multiple sclerosis was. I remember my first documented MS attack. I couldn’t walk without hugging the wall. Furthermore, without a wall, I tended to walk a diagonal line. Much like one who has been hitting the bottle.

Strangely enough, when I was very first being given the words…”It looks like you have MS”…her’s was the first image to pop into my mind. I remember thinking that if Annette could look that good and have MS, so could I.

Beyond what the lay person can “Google” on the internet or read about on Wikipedia, I don’t know much else about Ms. Funicello. But, I do know MS. I know about the routine appointments she must have had with her neurologist. I’m familiar with the slow degradation you notice as your body ages with the disease… degradation that I’m sure she noticed as well only was forced to share publicly for fear of tarnishing her reputation and being labelled a drunk. I am well acquainted with the closed spaces that the 3 hour routine MRI tubes afford…I’m sure she had her share. The list goes on.

That she died from “complications” of MS makes me scared. News outlets aren’t any more specific like, “Annette Funicello has died from heart failure” or “Former Mouseketeer died from head trauma.” But that they describe it as MS complications, strikes a chord deep inside. Like a reminder that not all things are permanent. That the disease I carry is a ticking time-bomb to the great end. More than anything Annette Funicello’s death reminds me that each day of life is precious…even more so because I have the disease. That each day of being able to use my own legs is a gift from God not to be forgotten…not to be taken for granted.

My friend told me that death is God’s mercy. True. However, life is God’s gift. I have given myself over 3,000 shots. I certainly long for the day when shots will no longer be necessary and my balance and legs work properly all the time. However, in the meantime, life needs to be lived and lived abundantly.

“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” (Romans 8:12-14 MSG)

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