#YOLO and #YODO! by Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

Saturday, 16 Aug 2014 16:50

About Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy (120 Posts)

Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician, who practices in one of the largest emergency departments in the United States at Huntsville Hospital. Through her writing and speaking, she is devoted to transforming the end of life into a time of peace, closure and healing. Media Page


I recently got back from an exciting vacation which included zip-lining and whitewater rafting. Repeatedly during this trip, my oldest daughter and I would encourage each other with the trendy term “#YOLO“-“you only live once,”  before we did something that felt  risky but adventurous. (No offense to my Hindu and Buddhist friends who might prefer another acronym such as “you only live as many times as you need to get it right”! #yolamtayntgir (Sorry…not terribly catchy guys!)

One morning on the vacation I got up to go jogging alone, high in the Rocky Mountains in bear country. I left my family a note as to my whereabouts and ended the note with “love you…YOLO!”

Well, the jog was successful in that I was not eaten by a bear (although my pace could not bear the classification “successful” by any stretch of the imagination).

But what if I had been eaten by a bear?

It would have likely been very painful for me but, as I later explained to my children, it could have been interesting for them. How many kids can say, “Yeah, my mom was eaten by a bear”?

#YODO! (“You only die once”!)

(Well, ok, my husband informed me that normal people do not think that being eaten by a bear is interesting. I’ll give him that one, but remember my ideas about what constitutes a good and acceptable death have been formed by over a decade of witnessing deaths of all kinds and I can think of worse ways to die.)

So back to my point- doesn’t an exotic cause of death have some positive value if one died while living out the motto #YOLO? How about if you died while living out your bucket list? Or simply died while doing something you loved? (See this blog!) Or even died in the place you call home, in the loving presence of your family, friends and favorite cat? I will take any of those as a “good death” and a fulfillment of the #YODO challenge- which implies that one should strive to have a death that is honorable and worthy of a life well-lived.

Now in contrast, where is the dignity, honor or even intrigue of lying incapacitated in one’s own poop and pee for years before the arrival of one’s mortality? Definitely not a fulfillment of the intended spirit of #YODO and indeed for those whom I have cared for in such a state, I always have felt that we have created unnecessary suffering for them- I have even felt that it was dishonorable to keep them “alive” in such a manner. I have even felt that it was simply wrong.

Now you recall that I do not support euthanasia or physician assisted suicide, but I do believe that we should gain control over our dying by planning in advance for what kind of medical interventions we would or would not want at the end of our lives. And our planning goals should center on creating a “good death” for ourselves while balancing desires for quality and quantity of life.

So in the spirit of #YOLO and #YODO, I wish you a full life and an honorable, peaceful, or at least, interesting death.

Do you know someone whose life and/or death exemplified #YOLO or #YODO? Please share!

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4 thoughts on “#YOLO and #YODO! by Monica Williams-Murphy, MD

  1. Pingback: #YOLO and #YODO! by Monica Williams-Murphy, MD | It’s OK to Die | All Things Palliative - Article Feed

  2. Dave Savage and Beverly Molander

    Right On!!!

    While we hope that people can die in a way that they find acceptable, we encourage them to live in a way that allows enough time and creates opportunities for their families to gather in meaningful ways to express their love, admiration and appreciation of them.

    Dave Savage – Officiant and co-author of Heartfelt Memorial Services: Your Guide to Meaningful Funerals, Celebrations of Life and Times of Remembrance. Our website already has lots of helpful materials.

  3. Kelly Lassaline

    I agree Monica. What good is our life unless we’re living it to the fullest? Everyone should have a bucket list, learn to live in the moment and make memories at every turn!

    Even when your life is all said and done, can you imagine sending a note to your friends or family reminding them of that zip lining experience. It is now possible with

    Carpe Diem!

  4. Rea

    “Life is fleeting and fragile. Live and love as though every day is your last….Leave no words unsaid, leave no plans unmade.” [book: IT’S OK TO DIE, p. 19 & p.21]


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