Annette Funicello and Margaret Thatcher In The After Life: A Very Short Story
Imagining what the two late icons may be hearing now...
It was - as always - a brilliantly gorgeous and spectacular day in Heaven.
The sun was shining on the Good Lord's home in Paradise, the grass growing lush in the meadow and the soft rolling hills beyond that being particularly green, while the snow-capped mountains looked so beautiful that it made you want to cry at its beauty.
The streams were giving off its usually fresh and delicious water, and were so clear you could point out minute details on your face.
By the way, you didn't think that Heaven was just a bunch of clouds and people sprouting wings out of their backs, wearing halos over their heads and playing harps, did you? That's such a stereotype!
The pain and illness - if that applies - that devastated you and was the reason your life ended are long gone and no more; you feel absolutely wonderful and are ecstatic with the knowledge that it will be that way for all eternity.
And the animals that you would usually be petrified of during your life on earth - the lions, tigers, bears (Oh my!) and other predators - are as sweet, docile, and tame as your beloved puppy or tabby cat that you adored while you were living on earth. As John said in the Book of Revelation...
"There shall be...no more sorrow, not crying, nor pain. The old things have passed away..."
So there I was, standing near the gates of St. Peter, watching the newly passed approach, some of them with uncertainty and confusion, some of them with outright fear, and some of them as happy as they could be, singing God's, his Son's, and the Holy Ghost's praises as they knew they were going to be in His glory, remembering how I felt when I was welcomed into His grace and smiling, feeling happy for these new souls that were about to share this eternal joy with me.
It was then that I saw someone who looked familiar to me while I was on Earth; I think I saw her on CNN and other news shows back in the 1980s. She had a short, coiffed hairdo and wore a very practical skirt and suit jacket as she approached the Pearly Gates (yes, they really are pearly - edged with gold).
Wait, I hear the Lord's voice coming from above now...
"Margaret Thatcher..." it spoke in a loud but soothing voice.
"Yes, my Lord," she replied - I knew she looked familiar, this first woman prime minister of Great Britain that was all over the TV at one time.
"You have done well in breaking barriers to female leadership and equality," the Lord's voice said, "...but you must answer for all the people that you hurt during the time you led the United Kingdom."
"You showed that you did not care one bit about the poor and the working class of your country; you fought against the rights of mine workers and you entailed policies that made many of your people destitute and desperate, some of them to the point of ending their lives because they felt that you abandoned them.
"During your time as Britain's prime minister, the policies that you put into practice made the poor and the working class of your country worse off, and that made me grieve and weep for the hardships that you caused and for your low regards for them.
"In short, what you did to the poor and working class people of Great Britain was evil.
"And not administering sanctions to the racist apartheid government of South Africa when initially asked was likewise a horrible thing that you did.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I truly do not know if I can admit you through these gates because of your actions to those less fortunate than you in your life, and I can certainly not let you into Heaven at this moment, unless you show remorse and an genuine desire to repent.
"Go now," the Lord said, pointing to an area that was covered in fog "...and wait over there. I need to see if your heart truly regrets what you have done and if it has repentance."
Mrs.Thatcher, looking quite surprised and distressed, did what the Lord asked, walking into the fog, which enclosed her so I couldn't see.
An hour or so later, I heard the Lord's voice call Mrs. Thatcher again. The former "Iron Lady" walked gingerly out of the fog, and as she got closer to the gates, I saw tears in her eyes.
"I have sinned," she said, trying to keep from sobbing. "I caused much hardship and suffering to far too many of the less fortunate of my country."
"I was convinced that my philosophies and policies were for Britain's greater good, but I now realize that they weren't, and my heart aches over the pain I have caused..."
Mrs. Thatcher's emotions got the best of her right then, and she covered her face, the tears winning out over any attempts at a stiff upper lip. "Please have mercy on me!" she exclaimed.
After a few minutes, the Lord said, "Do not be afraid. Your repentance has shown itself in your heart."
He then intoned, "Your sins are forgiven. Enter yourself unto this glory."
An angel then appeared (No, she didn't have wings on her back or was wearing a halo on her head, and she was wearing a regular sun dress, not white robes) and put her arm around Mrs. Thatcher she walked through the Pearly Gates. After a few steps, the Angel pointed out a man waiting for her under a tree.
It was apparent that the man was her husband; you should have seen her hug and kiss him, the tears still flowing over this reunion. They then walked over a meadow, earnestly talking about what I'm sure was the good times they had together.
Not too long after that, I noticed another woman walking toward the gates; unlike Mrs. Thatcher, this was a woman that I recognized right away.
She had a big smile on her face and black hair that fell toward her shoulders, walking with a spring in her step - almost a skip, really - that I had not seen in years, being that she was forced to use a wheelchair (yes, we keep up on the happenings on Earth, as the Lord doesn't want us to be ignorant).
Her beauty leaped out at me as she approached, looking quite a bit like she did in those beach movies that I enjoyed watching as a young man, her doe eyes sparkling and her skin shining like, well...the sun as I remembered being in love with her as an 11-year old and for many years afterwards.
"Yes, my Lord and Savior?" she said after she crossed herself, widening her eyes in happiness at hearing the voice which her disease had robbed her of - Gee, I had forgotten that she was Catholic.
"I only have a few things to say to you..." the Lord began.
"You have been a source of pleasure and inspiration to the world," He continued, "and through your actions in all the areas of your life you have greatly honored Me.
"For that I say to you, Well Done."
And then, as Annette beamed, the Lord said, "Welcome."
This beautiful former Mouseketeer, actress, and all-around sweetheart of her generation then put one of her feet in front of the other as she strolled through the gates; I thought I saw a tear go down her cheek as she hugged whom I'm sure were her parents - who looked absolutely ecstatic over seeing their little girl whole again as they grabbed her rather tightly with tears flowing from their eyes - grandparents and head Mickey Mouse Club man Jimmie Dodd, whom I had the pleasure to get to know.
Seeing me standing nearby, Jimmie exclaimed, "Hey, come on over here! There's someone whom I'd like you to meet!"
For the first time since I had arrived in Heaven, my knees were shaking as I approached the lady who, like countless millions of other young boys, was my first love, the girl that I so dearly wanted to marry once upon a time.
"I'm so honored to meet you Ms. Funicello," I said in a mildly shaky voice, "And I know that everyone is exceedingly glad that you are here."
Annette, flashing me that heart-throbbing smile that made me go gooey so many times on Earth, replied in a way that made me feel as if we were old friends...
"You're so sweet! And please, call me Annette!"
"OK - Annette," I said, beaming as she waved goodbye and walked away with Jimmie and her parents and grandparents, obviously very happy over the fact that starting today she no longer has to suffer from that crippling ailment that she had for her last two decades-plus on Earth.
I know full well that Heaven rejoices at every new resident, but I must admit something...
I wouldn't be surprised in the least if there was some particular rejoicing over this wonderful lady.