“Live every day like it’s your last, because someday you’re going to be right.”- Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

In the past nine months, I have lost 17 friends to what the writer Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) called “Old Death” in her story “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

Approximately a week ago, I attended the funeral of a woman whom I met years ago as a coworker in an Evanston not-for-profit. 

She had a disability. Her employer mistreated her and eventually got rid of her, but I (and others) admired her for not being afraid to speak up for herself. 

She had courage, and people often need and rely on the strength and courage of others to give them strength and courage. 

Although her family and friends acknowledged that her death released her from the pain and suffering of a serious illness, this acknowledgment could not eliminate the sense of loss and sorrow her family and friends felt with her passing.  She touched many lives during her lifetime, and she would be missed.  Her living had not been in vain.

The death of Muhammed Ali on June 3 also touched me.  His death made me aware of how much I admired him as a one-of-a-kind person of great intelligence, energy, on-the-spot poetry, humor, courage, and compassion for others (that is compassion outside the boxing ring). 

Muhammad Ali believed in helping others and did so in- and outside the U.S.A.  Surely, the words of the song “If I can Help Somebody” by Alma Bazel Androzzo can be a tribute to Muhammed Ali and all those other people who believe in helping others.

“If I can help somebody, as I travel along

If I can help somebody, with a word or song

If I can help somebody, from doing wrong

No, my living shall not be in vain…

You know, my living shall not be in vain.”

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...