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I Believe I Heard The Voice Of Jesus—Annette Funicello

Even the doctor didn’t suspect. He told us everything was all right. It just turned out to be one of those nightmares you hear about and never think can happen to you. Nobody expected it.

My brother, Joey, was six and I was nine when we had our tonsils removed in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California. It was during the Christmas holiday because my mom and dad didn’t want us to miss any school. My tonsils had bothered me from the day we moved to California from Utica, New York, where I was born.

The doctor agreed it was a good idea to perform a double operation. Joey and I could keep each other company in the hospital—and at home—while we got well.

Two days after the operation we were released by Dr. King, the kind, soft-voiced surgeon who patted me on the arm and said, “Now, keep up the good spirits. You’re going to be all right.”

Dr. King walked down the long hospital corridor with us to the front entrance. Both Joey and I carried our overnight plaid suitcases with our pajamas.

At the door, Dr. King said, “Don’t they look fine?” as he patted us on the back. My mom and dad smiled. Mom was pregnant with Mike then, and she was wearing maternity clothes. When we got home that December afternoon, we celebrated with vanilla ice cream and fresh orange juice, and I was allowed to play with my Christmas doll in bed until I fell asleep . . .

Mom and Dad were having coffee in the kitchen when Mom decided to take a look into the bedroom to make sure I hadn’t kicked off my blankets.

After an operation like that, you fall into deep sleeps where you feel so warm you’re uncomfortable. So you toss and turn and push the blankets away.

All I can remember is my mother yelling and the hallway light shining into the bedroom. She was standing above me, and I heard her cry out, “Joe . . . Joe . . . Joe!”

“What’s the matter?” my father called back from the kitchen.

“Joe,” my mother sobbed, the shiver of distress in her voice. “It’s Annette! She’s bleeding!”

My father rushed into the room. He snapped on the overhead light. I tried to speak. I wanted to sleep. Why were they bothering me? But I couldn’t talk.

My mouth tasted of blood. My pillow was moist and clammy. I looked at it in the light and I saw it was red, dark red, soaked with blood.

I was hemorrhaging.

“Oh, my baby,” my mother cried as she took me in her arms. “My baby . . . my own baby. . . .”

“Virginia,” my father’s voice was sharp. “Quick,” he said. “Call the doctor.”

I swallowed and it was as if a thousand needles were stuck in my throat. My father brought me a small white wash basin and he held it in front of me as I coughed blood into it.

When my mom returned to the room after telephoning the hospital, she said, “They’ll send an ambulance, but I told them you would drive her there. It’ll be faster. We’ll save time. They’re notifying Dr. King to rush to the hospital immediately.”

I have never seen my mother look so worried. Tears ran from her eyes, and, as my father wrapped me in a dark blanket, I remember hearing my mother’s voice whispering, “Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed art Thou amongst women . . .”

My father lifted me into his strong arms, and I looked at his round face, his warm brown eyes and dark wavy hair, and suddenly he looked fuzzy. I squinted to try to see, and I fainted.

I bled all the way to the hospital, my father told me. Mom stayed home with Joey. Dad drove me to the emergency entrance of St. Joseph’s where, he says, two internes were waiting. I was carried to the emergency room where Dr. King gave me a shot in my arm.

When I came to, I was lying on a long hospital table, wrapped in the blanket from home. I looked up into Dr. King’s kind eyes, and he said, “There, there now, we’re going to do everything we can.”

He was so gentle, so sure of himself that I was calmed, although I continued to bleed. The internes placed towels around my neck to catch the hemorrhaging blood that dribbled down my chin.

In a few minutes, Dr. King inserted silver rods in my mouth, and I lay back while he stroked my forehead and soothed me. There was a strong smell of alcohol in the room that gagged me. The internes assisted Dr. King as he called out instructions. My father stood by me crying. When your father stands beside you with tears brimming over in his eyes, you know something’s wrong.

For my father to cry, my life had to be in danger.

All I could do was pray

I closed my eyes. My mother’s prayer came into my mind. And I began reciting the prayer in my head. I couldn’t speak or whisper with the silver rods stuck in my throat. But I said the prayer over and over again in my mind until the white emergency room with its shiny silver instruments and snow-white walls came rushing toward me, overpowering me.

But the words stayed with me. Hail Mary, full of grace . . . pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.With all my heart I prayed. There was a thumping then in my brain, and I blacked out.

I remained unconscious all through my stay in the hospital and the return home. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the wooden crucifix on the blue wall of my mother’s bedroom.

I prayed with all my might. I prayed to the Virgin Mary, whose own Child had suffered when He was hung on the Cross.

Hail Mary, full of grace . . . pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

When I opened my eyes again I saw the soft rosy light of dawn filtering through the ruffled white curtains at the window. My mother, sitting on a chair beside me, her eyes dark and baggy and her hair pulled back in a knot, caressed my cheeks with her warm hand. She had stood vigil with me through the night.

I couldn’t see my mother too well, but the crucifix, which was further away, seemed like it was next to me. The small Cross of dark wood with the figure of Jesus, crowned with thorns, was right in front of me, and I kissed it.

“I am with you,” I heard a Voice saying.

All that day I was delirious with fever. And that same night, my head was dizzy and I craved ice-water every time I woke up. My mother kept a lamp lit in the room while I slept, and whenever I awakened, I would see the pink wool blanket on the bed and I would finger it lovingly before I dozed off, thinking, Someday, I’m going to have an all-pink bedroom. I still remember one of the strange dreams I had as I lay there delirious. In the dream I saw a beautiful pink, satin-covered bed, a vanity dresser with a mirrored top and a wide pink-net skirt. On the dresser were sparkling atomizers and bottles of perfume with sweet, flowery scents. I dreamed I sniffed all the perfumes, then sat cross-legged on the pink satin bedspread in my pink pajamas while a white bedside radio serenaded me with dance music and I ate a hot fudge sundae.

That next morning when I woke up I saw the crucifix again, and I prayed. My brother Joey, chubby and brown-eyed, bounced into the room in good spirits and said he was going to read me a poem from his first-grade book.

Getting better

I sat up in bed and my mother served me a warm broth. Joey asked Mom if he could read another poem, and she told him to be careful and not to strain his throat.

He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and said, “Annette, I don’t want you to be sick. I want you to get out of bed—like me.”

Then Mom told him to let me rest, and as I lay there in bed, I could hear the kids on the block, playing and laughing. Some of the girls were skipping rope to jump-rope rhymes, and others were playing hopscotch. I could hear the clack of the slate against the sidewalk as they took hopscotch turns. One of the neighbor girls, Mary Jo, bounced a ball to the tune of One, Two, Three O’Leary.

For the first time since I’d been in bed I felt lonely. I wanted to go out and play with them.

When the doctor came that afternoon, he asked me if I wanted anything. I asked him if I could have a few visitors for a little while. I wanted some company.

I could have them, he said. But, only if I promised not to talk.

Three of my girlfriends came at five o’clock. They brought me presents—a record and a charm bracelet and a Peter Rabbit hand puppet made out of a Christmas stocking.

They sat by the side of my bed on the kitchen chairs my father brought in for them. All of them were dressed up in pretty Christmas dresses, and they told me they wanted me to get well.

I wanted to reach over and hug them all.

My mother served them cups of hot chocolate and anise cookies, and when the sun started going down they left and said they’d come back and see me tomorrow.

They visited me every day until I was completely well. We played Jacks and Old Maid and sometimes Mary Jo would tell us a ghost story her old sister Rosie had read in a grown-up magazine.

Then came the day when mother cooked spaghetti and the doctor said I could come to the table to eat it. I knew I was well. My sickness was over.

That next Sunday we went to Mass at St. Charles Roman Catholic Church on Moore Park Boulevard, and as I knelt to pray to Him, I also thanked Him for looking after me, for watching over me all through my crisis.

That night I went into my mother’s bedroom and looked at the figure of Jesus on the wooden Cross, and I leaned over and kissed it.

I have never forgotten my faith since. I pray every day.

I thank Him for protecting me. And for letting me see my dreams come true.

For, not long afterward, the day came when I appeared on television, in my short skirt and cheerleader sweater, as one of the Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club TV show. And, later on, when we moved into our new house, my bedroom wish came true. It’s all pink, and the bed has a pink satin bedspread, and in the corner I have my mirrored vanity dresser with the ruffled pink skirt and a collection of perfume bottles, each of them with a sweet heavenly scent.

God never forgets those who trust in Him.



Annette’s last picture was Walt Disney’s SHAGGY DOG.