I do not speak for those closest to him left behind, the family and the ones that really knew The Greatest, especially in this last period when the sonovabitch Parkinson’s started winning rounds by wider margins.
But this morning, sadder than the one before, because the planet is less one legendary being, I do believe that some folks are feeling some relief. To watch a loved one diminished is a diminishing experience. The comparing and the contrasting can be unfathomable. Someone who was strong and a rock formation to your foundation of being is no longer that. Sickened and frail, shrinking in body and spirit … they are edging closer to dying and it must be hellish for them. The end is near, it is clear, but people are fighters off the ropes and so counterpunch. Extraordinary measures are taken to prolong life and buy time. The price can be high. Quality of life is not what it was.
I don’t know well enough those in the inner Ali circle, wife Lonnie and the kids and such, but I did get some insight from daughter Maryum, daughter to Muhammad and Belinda.
How are you doing, I inquired. Well, I hope.
“Thank you very much,” ‘May May’ answered. “I am happy my father no longer struggles. He is in a better place. God is the greatest.”
The leaving of this greatest of boxing gods touches us all differently.
Ali gone, Frazier gone, Norton gone. George Foreman is fit and funny and still preaching in Texas. I asked him how the world looks to him today, the day after.
“Empty! A day without the great one … I always knew he heard me, now I just speak to open air, it seems,” Foreman told me.
There is an emptiness. It can’t be filled to the same level. Many of us will cope by watching Him at his best, seeing the physical exploits, hearing the verbal mastery, luxuriating in the total package of wondrousness. His was a life fully lived and his legacy is immense and provocative and unsurpassable. The Greatest is gone, no longer battling that degenerative disease and I do hope it’s OK for me to feel some relief in that. The fight is over, but glorious memories of one unlike any other remain; this day is tinged with sadness, but no moping for me. He was and still is, to me, a baaad man. Farewell to The Greatest. Really, truly, totally, rest in peace.