It's such an obvious thing to say but everyone deals with death differently. I can remember when I was informed of the news that one of my aunt's, my mother's sister Pat, had passed away. I wasn't particularly close to her and, in fact, hardly even knew her. But I felt weird about the whole thing. Different.
My brother Adam, whom death had touched many times before then, made sure to call me.
"How are you?", he asked.
"I don't know, really," I responded. "I feel like I'm wrong no matter what I do. I also feel aimless too, like it's unfair of me to go about daily tasks. Like, how can I just go back to watching Sportscenter? That's awful, right?"
The conversation that followed centered solely around dealing with being guilty simply for being alive after a family member had died, even if that family member wasn't someone we had spoken to for a number of years. The long and short of it was that it was Adam who explained to me that it's okay to go back to your daily life because, well, there is no other choice. You are alive and so you must live.
As a pro wrestling fan, death is all too familiar. It's sad but true. I was too young to really know or understand the situation when Owen Hart fell at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City and couldn't recover from the injuries he suffered. Chris Benoit's death, on the other hand, wasn't hard to detach from once details became clear on how he died.
But Paul Bearer's death feels different.
I'm grown now, and I run a pro wrestling website dedicated to delivering breaking news, updates, commentary, and opinion on this industry. During a down period last night (March 5, 2013), I cruised the Cageside Seats Twitter feed and stopped short when I saw it, a tweet from WWE on Paul Bearer's passing.
Immediately, I felt conflicted. On some level I was already aware of what I had to do but I almost felt resentment for that. I wanted to sit and think about how he used to scare me silly when I was younger, his haunting voice infiltrating my ears and providing the perfect backdrop for the even scarier Undertaker.
That laugh, that bunched up face, the urn, that voice, the way he nodded his head so devilishly in that suit and tie. When I learned later that he was actually a licensed funeral director and embalmer, I was all the more amazed.
But I knew I couldn't just sit and remember him; not yet, at least. I had a story to write, even if it was a brief one, to notify readers of this here site of what had occurred. It may have been the first time I didn't want any part of this job.
I didn't know what to say.
Remaining professional was all I could think to do. I know I'm supposed to worry about garnering hits but I wasn't going to be a whore for this. I wasn't going to play the SEO game because I know how folks use Google's search engine and how I can manipulate a title to give the site the best chance of being seen by the most people. The fact that those thoughts even entered my mind made me feel like shit.
It was like going right back to my Aunt Pat again. How am I supposed to think about how many hits the site is getting when I'm sad that I'm still here and Paul Bearer, a great man by all accounts, is not? How am I supposed to write this knowing it will get plenty of clicks and I'll make money because of that?
I'm making money on the death of a great man. I don't know how to feel for that. Hell, I don't know how to feel about the fact that I'm writing this and I keep saying "I," like my feelings mean much of anything right now.
As I write this, a story I wrote last night on John Cena is going to auto-publish to the front page looking back on the last year of his career and investigating his claim on Monday Night Raw this past week that it was such a bad one. It feels so wrong to think of it going up at a time like this. But, as Adam told me, I know it should go up. Because it has to go up, because we must move forward, because there's no other choice.
Cena made those claims on the "Old School" episode of Raw, which just so happened to be the same evening that saw the long awaited television return of Undertaker, the man Paul Bearer helped turn into a legend while becoming a legend himself. A match was set up for WrestleMania 29 between 'Taker and CM Punk. Although I wouldn't have thought of it before, now I can't stop thinking of what it would have been like to have Bearer leading Undertaker down the aisle, just one more time.
I think in some way he'll be doing just that. And I'll be writing about it either way, feeling guilty but knowing this is what I do and this is what must be done.
Rest in peace, Paul Bearer, and thank you for the memories. I'm sorry for feeling like I needed to write this.