He knew what he wanted next in life. A nervous William rang the doorbell of the old Higgins Funeral Home. The man who opened the door – and his heart – was Paul E. Pierce, Sr., who became William’s mentor.

Paul hired me as an apprentice funeral director and embalmer that day. For the next two years he taught me everything he knew about funeral service, about life, about friends, and about being a husband and a father. After I left his employment, we remained lifelong friends, and Paul was one of my biggest supporters as I climbed the ladder not only in funeral service, but also in professional wrestling.

William worked actively in the funeral business, wrestling on the side, until his big break in professional wrestling came along. His early wrestling characters were based on his mortuary background: The Embalmer, The Mortician and Dr. Rigor Mortis.

He started wrestling full-time for George Culkin’s International Championship Wrestling (ICW) on April 11, 1978. A few months later, on December 22, 1978, William married Dianna Lynne McDoyle.

When Dianna got pregnant, and eventually had their first son, Michael, William had to start reassessing his life. Should he stay with the exciting but erratic world or professional wrestling, or should he return to the funeral business, which would ensure him a steady career?

Little did I know, that when the nurse carefully placed my newborn son in my arms that July 1979 morning, it would mark the beginning of some major decisions in my life.

As long as I live, I will never forget the look on my Mom and Dad’s face as we stepped off the plane in Mobile and I handed them their first grandson. We ended up moving in with my parents, and as the summer of 1979 started drawing to a close, so did my wrestling career.

I decided that it was time to return to college and finish my degree, confident that wrestling would always be around. So, I started back to school at the University of South Alabama, just taking general courses. I was aware that I would have to finish my last two years at a college that had a Mortuary Science program. So, I went back dispatching at night for a local ambulance service while hitting the books in my quest to become a licensed mortician.

To make a long story short, the days turned into months, and the months into years. As the years went slowly by, in January of 1981, we moved to San Antonio, Texas where I finished my degree and received my funeral service licenses.

William graduated on the Dean’s List with a Funeral Director/Embalmer’s certification from San Antonio College. In 1983, he moved closer to home, ending up in Biloxi, Mississippi where he worked as a funeral director and embalmer.

Eventually, of course, William returned to professional wrestling in 1984. He maintained his licenses in mortuary services throughout his life. When he left WWE in 2002 to take care of Dianna, who was fighting cancer, it wasn’t long before he returned to the funeral home industry, this time with Coastal Funeral Home & Crematory in Moss Point, MS.

On March 14, 2004 Paul Bearer returned to WWE at WrestleMania XX, seconding The Undertaker. The Paul Bearer character was used sporadically over the next few years. Moody continued to work in the mortuary field as well as taking wrestling bookings.

As Moody told the Jackson Citizen Patriot:

Oh yes. I’ll have a family in my office, and all of a sudden one of them will look up and say, ‘Oh my gosh, Grandma’s funeral is being done by Paul Bearer!’ Southern folks are a little bit different in that wrestling is probably bigger than it is to northern folks. I’ve often had people ask me to stand up next to grandma or grandpa’s casket for a picture. Of course, I have to decline as politely as I can, because that’s obviously not appropriate. I’ll offer them a chance to come back to my office for an autograph or something, but that’s it.

Though he was asked by many a wrestling fan to perform funeral services as the Paul Bearer character, this is something he had too much integrity to ever allow.

Dianna Moody was able to beat her cancer. But when her cancer returned, it was a more aggressive form. Dianna died January 31, 2009. William, of course, was devastated, and found comfort talking about his feelings on his personal blog.

I will NEVER forget the last time she told me she loved me. It was the morning of the day she died. I had made her as comfortable as possible when I was leaving for work. As I opened the door to leave, she said, “Remember that I love you.” Thinking back, something was so different with those words that morning. When I got into the car, I felt so all alone, and tears came to my eyes, seemingly for no reason. But that wasn’t the last time I saw her alive.

I can honestly tell you I am a much better funeral director today after losing Dianna. I have sat on the other side of that desk in a funeral home, making arrangements. Now I can tell the families that I serve that I do know how they feel, and I know exactly what I need to do to assist them in the very best way that I can. I now believe that facing mortality is life's most complex lesson. I believe it is second only to accepting and understanding the physical loss of a loved one. Human mortality is really physical mortality. The true and everlasting existence is our spiritual life, which is what we Christians believe will never end but endure forever.

In college I remember studying the writings of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. There she described, in five discrete stages, a process by which people deal with grief and tragedy. The stages are known as the Five Stages of Grief. They are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Since Dianna's passing, I think I go through all five of these stages every day, at least once an hour.

His calm understanding of death helped him cope with enormous loss over the years, affording him a certain level of comfort as his own personal tragedies mounted. Whether it was the loss of family, or the overwhelmingly large numbers of his wrestling contemporaries, Moody was always looked to as a pillar in a storm.

The day after Owen Hart died, William was somehow able to pay tribute to his late friend on worldwide television in a modified reading of The Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon.

He will not grow old, like we who are left grow old

Age shall not weary him, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember him

Goodbye, old buddy.

In a strange irony, when William Moody died on March 5, 2013 from a heart attack, many thought it was a part of the storyline for the Paul Bearer/Undertaker saga. Indeed, it was not.

But his death didn’t stop WWE from using this as a way of writing Paul Bearer out of the Undertaker plot lines. CM Punk and Paul Heyman stole The Undertaker’s urn, supposedly containing the ashes of Paul Bearer, leading up to a huge showdown at WrestleMania 29. The Undertaker won the match and the urn, dedicating his win to his late friend. And William Moody wouldn’t have had it any other way.