I try to remind my children every now and then that this is not a dress rehearsal. This is real, this is it and this is all we have. And guess what? YOLO is not just smart slang, it is a true and an unavoidable fact that ‘You Only Live Once.’ Nothing puts our mortality into sharp focus like the loss of a loved one. We all know that we will die some day; but while we may accept our mortality we have also trained ourselves not to focus on morbid thoughts of our impending death so that we may be able to live this life fully. But there is a thin line between living life fully and living in denial of our eventual demise. So we go about our daily routines living as though we will never die. The illusion of immortality is even more apparent in the youthful years when we live so recklessly in the firm belief that we still have so many years ahead to ‘settle down’ and do the right thing. When we are young we think we are invincible and even the death of our young peers in the early years does not seem to jolt us back to reality.
While living in the United States and counting every penny I often used web based financial calculators to find out how I might manage my debt and how I might lower my monthly payments and save some money. While exploring different calculators, I found out that car insurance companies charge a higher premium for younger drivers and as years went by my premium dropped because the company’s trust in my judgment and ability to make sound decisions increased as I got older. So actuaries have measured the risk and figured out exactly how likely we are to crash a car depending on our age bracket. They have looked at speeding tickets, accidents caused by reckless young drivers texting at the wheel and the numerous incidents of drink drive offences. They have put a monetary value to that risk and covered it by insuring a teenage driver at a much higher than a middle-aged father or mother.
Yet as I get older I find that I am not necessarily wiser when it comes to fully comprehending my mortality. I put off writing a will for a while even when I saw how much confusion followed John’s death because he died intestate. I know I drive slower and negotiate the corners better than most kids, but then when am desolate and lonely I poison my body with food, alcohol and tobacco as though to poke death in the eye in the vain hope that am the lucky one that will escape the well-known consequences.
At about the time my girls lost their father, they gave me a rubber wristband with the letters ‘YOLO’ and I went on to embarrass them by wearing it every day for about one year. I wore it on the same hand that I now wore the ring that I gave John on our wedding day 19 years ago. I had lost the one he gave me in 2001 and never realized that John kept his all these years. When the military arrived and took over his funeral ceremony on 31 August 2013, they decided that John would be buried in the uniform of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces. My stepson Edward whom I met that very sorrowful morning watched as they dressed him and prepared his body for interment. He noticed that John was still wearing the gold band we exchanged all those years ago and so he gently removed it from his finger presented it to me.
At 50 I know that wearing that ring and the YOLO wristband reminded me that this is not a dress rehearsal, it is the real thing: My Life, the only one I have and the consequence of this one life is death. The only real choice I have is how I live this life until the day I die.