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I first heard the term YOLO – acronym for You Only Live Once – last fall as my worship planning team met to brainstorm ideas for upcoming worship services. Our Youth pastor suggested YOLO as a theme to address the question “What am I supposed to do with my life?” When I looked up YOLO in the Urban Dictionary I found various, and mostly critical, definitions including:

  • the dumbass’s excuse for something stupid they did;
  • “carpe diem” for stupid people;
  • a viral quote most popularly used by prepubescent girls; and
  • You Obviously Lacking Originality

among others.

For the past 24 hours I’ve been on a fairy tale trip of a lifetime. My daughter Mandy is engaged and we’ve been shopping for her wedding dress. She found a dress online that captured her heart. As she tried on other dresses it became apparent to me that no other dress was going to be acceptable until she tried on this particular Maggie Sottero gown.

As we searched for the gown we discovered not only that it had been discontinued, but there was only one left in her size in the entire US. That dress was in Woodland, CA just outside of Sacramento. I live in Winston Salem, NC and Mandy lives in Columbia, SC.

Undaunted by the distance and facilitated by the flight privileges of my airline pilot husband, Mandy and I met in Charlotte, NC very early yesterday morning and embarked on our adventure to find her dress. Our first hint that this trip was predestined came when we checked in and were offered First Class upgrades. We had planned to sleep on the flight so we could take full advantage of our 24 hours in the San Francisco/Sacramento area, but the excitement of kids at Christmas kept us talking and planning for the entire 5-1/2 hour flight.

We landed in San Francisco, picked up our rental car and made our way out of the city and through the bucolic countryside of the Napa Valley. As we exited the highway in the small town of Woodland, we were passed by a white, blue and green bus with the word “Yolobus” printed on the side. We laughed as we guessed at the possible stops a Yolobus would make.

We continued into the very Mayberry-like town of Woodland and found our destination. Cocco’s Couture was a cozy and elegant boutique offering attractively displayed formal and bridal attire. Our appointment commenced with Mandy, the gown of her heart’s desire, and a friendly sales associate disappearing into a fitting room.

The beautiful young woman who emerged sent chills down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. When she saw her reflection in the mirror she softly murmured the words I had been waiting to hear; “I love it. It’s perfect. This is my dress.”

It was immediately obvious that our trip had not been made in vain. Mandy had found her wedding dress. As Yesenia Espinoza, Cocco’s owner, helped to find a veil, she asked about the 2 amethysts that flank the diamond on Mandy’s engagement ring. Mandy told her about Ryan, her brother who died when she was younger. She had worn a ring with his birthstone on the ring finger of her left hand since his death because it kept him closer.

Tears stung my eyes again as she talked about Ryan and relayed how Sean had included the amethysts when he designed her engagement ring. Moved by the story and the fact that we had come so far to try this dress Yesenia gave us the chosen veil as a gift. Could this day get any better?

We purchased the gown, made arrangements to have it shipped home and, after hugs all around, floated out of the shop on memories and dreams. As we left town to return to San Francisco in time to take in a few sights of the City by the Bay, we passed a sign reading “SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA – COUNTY OF YOLO.” We were in Yolo County. How appropriate.

It doesn’t matter that most of the definitions of YOLO are negative or that it was included on the “2013 List of Words to Be Banned From the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse or General Uselessness.” There is no guarantee of tomorrow. Children die. Today is all we have.

So when your only daughter is getting married…and falls in love with a dress…and you have access to free travel…of course you fly across the country to see it. And you stay up 22 hours to squeeze in seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and dine at a local restaurant and stay up a little longer still to see the 25,000 computer generated lights playfully twinkling on the Bay Bridge. You set an alarm for the next morning and get up and out in time to find the perfect jewelry to accompany the perfect dress before heading to the airport to fly home. And you love every single minute of it because you only live once.