Muhammad Ali’s Daughter Laila: ‘We Sent Him Off in a Very Peaceful Way’ – ABC News
Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila Ali said her dad was surrounded by all nine of his children when he died and “sent off in a very peaceful way.”
“All of us kids … were all at the hospital and all had the opportunity to be with him when he passed away,” Ali, 38, said today on “Good Morning America.” “We all were there and that doesn’t always happen, when everybody has the opportunity to be there, so that was very nice.”
The world-famous boxer died Friday night at the age of 74 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Laila Ali said her sisters honored their dad’s Muslim faith as he died.
“My sisters were saying Islamic prayers,” she said. “It was a very peaceful time and we sent him off in a very peaceful way.”
Ali had been hospitalized prior to his death for respiratory issues. The boxer had fought a decades-long battle with Parkinson’s disease and Laila said she felt “comfort” in knowing her dad is now at peace in his body.
“I can say that I’m obviously really sad but I’ve been sad for a long time just watching my father struggling with Parkinson’s disease,” she said. “You know, you hold your head up and you say, ‘Yeah, he’s doing great,’ but, you know, I felt like he was trapped inside of his body so I have comfort in knowing that he’s not suffering anymore. So that’s what makes me feel better.”
Laila, who followed her father into professional boxing, remembered her dad as a “fighter inside and out of the ring” who spoke for people who “couldn’t speak up for themselves.”
“I just have so much respect for him because you just don’t see that. You don’t see that anymore, not only in just athletes, I mean there’s just not that many men that you can compare to my father,” she said. “When I think of my father, I think of people like Nelson Mandela and people like that.”
She also recalled the iconic moment at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when her dad lit the Olympic flame, 12 years after his Parkinson’s diagnosis.
“It amazes me how just the presence of my father, whether he was lighting the torch or not, brings so many people to tears because he stands for so much without even speaking,” Laila said. “He’s an angel. Just to hold that torch and be shaking and not be hiding his sickness and just showing that strength that he still has. He embodies so much and it was just all in that one moment and people just weren’t expecting it.
She added, “This man just transcends everything there is and everybody just loves him. There isn’t anybody else like him. I don’t think there ever will be. That makes me sad too. He’s passing on and I’m just like, man, what does this next generation have?”
Laila said she is now explaining to her two young children that the man they knew only as “Poppa” has died. The family has happy memories of gathering together in January in Arizona to celebrate Ali’s 74th birthday.
“All his kids and grand kids were there, we were with him in Arizona, and he was bright-eyed and alert and had a great day,” she said, adding of her two kids, “…I have to stay strong and teach them about celebrating life and moving on and all of that because it’s a part of life.”
The family will remember Ali on Thursday in a private ceremony in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The public will be able to pay their respects on Friday at an interfaith memorial service and a procession through the streets of Louisville.
The remembrance will be one that Ali himself planned, according to his daughter.
“He said he wanted it in an arena so everybody can come and be there,” Laila said of her famously attention-grabbing dad. “It’s like, trust me, if 10 million people come that’s not going to be enough for him. He’s going to be like, ‘That’s it?’”