The Poignant Question Mister Rogers Asked His Wife In His Final Days

Fred Rogers, otherwise known as his television personality name Mister Rogers, was the iconic founder and host of PBS' "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," a wildly popular children's show that aired for 33 years. That's probably an unnecessary introduction, given that most of us know who Mister Rogers is and even have memories of watching reruns of his program when we were kids, but there was a lot more to the calm, friendly man than meets the eye. 

Growing up, you may have heard rumors that Fred Rogers was a Navy SEAL sniper before he was a puppet-wielding children's show host, but according to Movie Maker, that rumor is nothing more than a myth. Still, there were many layers to the man who brought so much joy to young viewers over the course of 895 episodes between 1968 and 2001. CNN reports that Rogers was a man who took his religious faith very seriously, so when the end was drawing near for the cheery fellow who liked us just the way we are, his spiritual musings culminated into a question he asked his wife about his own relationship with God. 

Rogers died in 2003

On February 27, 2003, Fred Rogers died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the age of 74. According to Biography, Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer the year prior, and despite prompt efforts from doctors and extensive treatment after the fact, complications with the disease accelerated within a short window of time. He died at his home with his wife (Joanne, above) and children by his side. "He never used the word death, he always used the words 'going to heaven,'" Marc Brown, creator of the animated PBS series "Arthur," told the Post-Gazette after his friend's death. "Boy, if anyone deserves to be in heaven, it's Fred Rogers."

Anyone who believes in heaven would like to think they've got a place waiting for them there after they die. In addition to his TV work, Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, who spent part of each day alone in prayer, and in one sense prayed all day long. However, according to The Gospel Coalition, the question he asked Joanne before he left this world suggested that he needed some additional affirmation on the matter.

Am I a sheep?

Shortly before closing his eyes forever, Fred Rogers turned to his wife and leveled the question, "Am I a sheep?" as The Gospel Coalition reports. There's a passage in the Bible that most practitioners of the Christian religion are familiar with that reads (via the King James Version), "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:31-34).

In the context of the passage, those posed to follow the messiah into the Kingdom of Heaven are the sheep. The outliers, on the other hand, are the goats (this is appropriate, given that the horned little creatures are often directly associated with the devil and occultism, as Crosswalk reports). In the end, Fred Rogers sought the consoling words of the woman he loved most before he could comfortably depart this world. Joanne tenderly replied, "If anyone is a sheep, you are" (per The Gospel Coalition).