“What would be the kindest choice?”
The question is attributed to Mr. Rogers, but its answer lived large in Stafford Rosenberg.
If you felt the earth shift beneath your feet last week, you were not imagining things. A titanic soul has departed. Stafford — he of 80s-band hair and infinite appetite, oceanic eyes and relentless gentleness — lost his brief battle with a belly full of cancer.
Time is gelatinous at Tabby’s Place, so a cat who has lived with us three years can feel like he’s been our anchor for three times that period. Stafford came to us in 2018 — a mere moment and a full eon ago — but it feels as though his sheepdog hair and anger-proof heart have held us close for far longer.
It’s not necessarily easy to walk this earth with a heart like Stafford’s or Mr. Rogers’s. When you are built entirely of gentleness, crafted without even one sharp sliver of sarcasm or self-protective snark, you are vulnerable. Stafford suffered for his sweetness.
But suffering born of sweetness breaks open treasure chests that will budge no other way. Stafford’s meekness made him the pariah of a feral cat colony, mercilessly pounded by ungracious peers. That sad scenario, however, led Stafford to inherit the earth — or at least, a spot at Tabby’s Place.
Once again, our wild-maned Mr. Rogers would find himself in a class and a corner of his own. Suite FIV’s brawlers proved too much for the gentle sage, and, for a second time, Stafford found himself on the business end of teeth and claws. This time, he was bound for glory.
By which, of course, I mean Jonathan’s office.
This would be the setting for Stafford’s Life with a capital L. Far from the mad and the mean, Stafford held court, dispensing tenderness even faster than we could dispense treats and fish mush (which is saying a lot, as Stafford could consume all consumables at extraordinary speeds). If ever you needed to feel better, for any and all and no reason, Stafford was your angel standing by.
Today, he stands among the angels, and we are frankly lost.
I am but one dunderhead, and Stafford was cherished by many. One of his greatest admirers, advocates, and kindred spirits was Stephanie, the Correspondent who wrote updates for Stafford’s sponsors. I thank her for allowing us to share her words here:
“By now, you know that Stafford is gone. There was nothing we could have done for him, but that does not make this any easier, something of which you’re probably well aware. Apart from the shock at the suddenness of it all, apart from the sadness, comes the knowledge of what I’ll miss.
I’ll miss Stafford’s easy-going nature. It isn’t every feline who could live contentedly in a relatively small space with a shifting cast of roommates. But Stafford just didn’t seem fazed by the other cats around him, whether they were coming or going.
I’ll miss his gentleness. Even a kitten can do damage with teeth and claws when annoyed or upset, but our boy never seemed to lift a paw toward anyone in anger, even during medical testing.
I’ll miss his expressive eyes. I’ll miss his shaggy coat.
But I think, most of all, I’ll miss his presence. On any day when I was at Tabby’s Place, I could go into our Executive Director’s office and know I’d see Stafford, usually enthroned on a chair and looking around serenely. You know how handsome he was, and he just liked people; it was a combination impossible to resist. He always made me smile.
I am heartbroken at Stafford’s loss, but I want to thank you for sharing in his life and our ability to provide him with loving care.”
If you’re a praying kind of creature, please offer one or a hundred for our Jonathan. The loss of one Stafford would be enough to warrant this, but sorrow sometimes breaks all levees and rules of reasonableness. Just days before losing Stafford, Jonathan bid farewell to another officemate, our frail sweet Mr. Dracula. A wee wisp of a cat, all angles and ancient eyes, Drac wore sweaters and affection with equal panache. His face was solemn; his heart was light; today he has stepped into the great light that warms us all from afar.
Drac was not Stafford’s first office mate, nor the only one to receive Standard Stafford Protocol: ignore (as far as the naked eye could tell); adore (by way of sharing all things, including food and Jonathan and personal space); teach to implore (for one hundred metric tons of additional food).
Stafford’s entire existence was an answer to the question: “What would be the kindest choice?”
We who remain in his wake have inherited the challenge. We have been loved well enough to become answers ourselves. May we face the choices of this day and this hour with the meek, mighty heart of one shaggy lion.
Until we meet again, beloved Stafford.