By Chris Shore
In a former life, I spent five years as an EMT in North Carolina. Of all the things I saw, none spooked me more than the times when people knew they were dying and acted as such. I remember, vividly, a man telling his son that he wouldn’t die that day, but on Sunday. His obituary in Monday's paper confirmed his accuracy. I equally remember picking up a catatonic woman from her home where her son told me she hadn't spoken in three years. Five minutes after loading her into my ambulance, she began to pray out loud and praise Jesus. She passed 20 minutes after we made it to the hospital.
Even my own paternal grandmother, who was tragically killed just two days before Christmas in a freak accident, spent the week before going out of her way to visit with several members of the family, including my young family and me, and reached out to my mother to wish her a Merry Christmas though my dad and mom had been divorced since I was two. Her apparent knowledge wasn't conscious, of course, but many people said afterward that looking back, it felt like she was saying goodbye
So it's no surprise that I sit here today and wonder about the words of The Ultimate Warrior on Monday night: "Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper than something that is larger than life, then his essence, his spirit will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, of those who honor him and make what that man did live forever."
Did he know, consciously or unconsciously, that his time was short? I thought as he said those words he didn't look comfortable in his own body. The limp was noticeable, but that had been there for some time. He looked stiff, like moving his arms took great effort on his part. He delivered his speech masterfully, and I couldn't help but smile. While I wasn't the biggest Ultimate Warrior fan, I was never confused about his legacy in wrestling.
He reached out to a lot of people this weekend it seems. He publicly thanked Ted DiBiase, who has publicly criticized Warrior for his lack of gratitude for the other men in the business who helped him achieve success--even going so far as to say that attitude ought to disqualify Warrior from the Hall of Fame. Warrior addressed this too on Monday, stating, "No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own."
Hulk Hogan has spoken about how he and Warrior buried the proverbial hatchet. No small feat considering it wasn't all that long ago that Warrior accused Hulk of pimping out his former wife, Linda Hogan, to the locker room. And there is, of course, the ultimate--if you will forgive the pun--hatchet burying with the McMahons that led to this final weekend of his life.
None of this is meant to excuse the things Warrior has said and done over the years. Calling him polarizing might be the greatest understatement in history. But a measure of a man isn't just in his mistakes. It is also in his ability to account for those mistakes. Warrior may not have accounted for them all, but the fact that he was trying does matter.
All of which leads me back to my original question: Did he know? I look at the tears in his wife's face on Saturday at the Hall of Fame and also wonder if she knew, or at least feared, that her time with him was winding down rapidly. We will probably never know for sure if he knew on a conscious level, but my experience leads me to believe that somewhere, at least in his subconscious, Warrior knew his window to make things right was closing rapidly and he attempted to make amends as best he could.
Whether he did enough to account for the shortcomings in his life is to be debated by men better than me. What I will say is that for at least one moment in time, as he stood on stage at the Hall of Fame, Warrior understood the most important thing he could: of all the things he had done, nothing could compare to being the father of his two daughters. Maybe that, more than anything else, tells us where Warrior's mind was at the end.