Kids, in the winter of 2021, the truly awful, unexpected and unfair happened: we lost your vibrant, beautiful, feisty, larger-than-life Aunt Yolisa. She was only 41, far too young to be shuffling off of this mortal coil.
While you have certainly heard the incredible story of How I Met Your Aunt Yoli over and over throughout the years, I will tell it to you once again:
It was a friendship meet-cute for the ages: at the height of one of my “Year of Yes” adventures, I agreed to go camping with a bunch of strangers at the Rocking the Daisies music festival in Darling. Yolisa was the driver and leader of our little roughing-it-out adventure as she’d been given a Ford SUV to try out and write about for her blog.
At first, I didn’t know what to make of this strong force of a woman but when we handed our IDs to security upon our arrival at the festival, we discovered we shared a birthday and the flame of twinship ignited!
Over the course of the weekend, we became inseparable as we uncovered everything we had in common: being the eldest children of single mothers, being Daddy’s Girls, knowing we were destined to be published writers, our insatiable appetite for books, travel, chocolate and hot men (Yoli loved Idris Elba the way I loved Alexander Skarsgard), how people mistook our delightful sarcasm and firm boundaries as being mean, haughty and unapproachable and how much we loved to dance.
It was for me, at least, a relief to finally meet someone I didn’t have to waste my time explaining who and what I was to. Yoli instinctively and instantly got me and we reflected that in each other.
In the years that followed, the mutual friends who had introduced us faded from our lives but Yoli and I grew, nurtured and maintained our twinship over texts, phone calls, voice notes, hangouts, sleepovers, tagging in each other in online competitions ( Gods, Yoli had a lucky streak! The epic shit she won over the years was astounding!), vacations, and social media shout outs -most often internationally as she spent large stretches of time visiting the love of her life, Shani, in the US.
Five years before her untimely passing, my fucking fantastic twin released her first book, Writing What We Like. I wasn’t invited to the book launch at the Book Lounge in the CBD so much as ordered to attend by Yoli. I kid you not, her as always direct text read: ” Faz darling, am I seeing you at the launch on Tuesday?”
It sounded like a question but I knew it to be a directive and I happily obliged.
Seated in the front row, holding onto her phone and other necessities, I was in awe of my gorgeous friend as she read excerpts from the book, participated in the panel discussion ,answered questions from the audience and signed books like the girl boss she was.
Yolisa was a creative and dynamic force to be reckoned with and she blazed a trail through the media with her sharp wit, her timeless style and her tireless efforts to get the work of people of colour noticed. I was and still am SO incredibly proud of her.
2017 to 2021:
Our twin adventures over the years spanned the spectrum of incredibly sweet to bat shit crazy. Like the night in 2018 when we randomly picked up a handsome stranger at the Honey Badger restaurant in Loop Street and dragged him along to a burlesque show where we kept trying to set him up with each other.
I’m pretty sure Mr Dark, Tall and Mysterious was down to get down with both of us but Yoli and I were having so much fun plying each other with champagne, admiring the dancers’ bodies and costumes and just generally being us, he kind of got lost in the process and eventually left. His loss!
Your Aunt Yoli firmly believed in your imminent births and would regularly pop into my messages with a “My twin, I’ve been thinking: we need to out do Beyonce’s maternity shoot. I’ve decided I am gifting you with a Wonder Woman shoot for my future nieces/nephews!” or “Beloved, IVF is far too expensive. Let’s circle back to you shagging the hot barman and making your baby the old fashioned way on your next island vacation and save that IVF money for trips to Disney.”
She often commented on my blog posts to you, was the first to like and shares photos and links of my work in magic, cosplay and tourism and was always my fiercest cheerleader. We often exchanged war stories about the cut throat world of online dating. She cracked me up with her voice notes about the trash Tinder dates in the States and even featured my own tales of dating horror in her All4Women blog series.
Any text that started with “My twin”, “Beloved” or “My Khaleesi” from Yoli was sure to be the start of the best How I Met Your Father shenanigans and I was always up for it.
Our 2019 Girls’ Trip cruise to the Portuguese Islands was no different. Once again, a trip with strangers beckoned but I knew, loved and trusted Yoli enough by then to know that I was guaranteed to have a magical time with her circle of amazing friends, who became mine too.
A week of sipping cocktails, sunbathing, exchanging life stories and advice, me being Yoli’s instawife, us eating too much, exploring the ship in the early hours of the morning to find the best nightclub ensued. It was exactly what I needed to get through my depression and I am eternally thankful to my twin for it.
Our last birthday celebration:
Though we threatened to do it every year since we met, Yolisa and I never got around to hosting a joint celebration on our birthday. It was ok, though, because we understood each other’s need to be the Queen Bee on our special day with our separate circles of friends and family. Fittingly, in 2020, when lockdown levels allowed for it, Yoli treated me to a decadent cocktails and brunch twin date at the Radisson Blu two weeks after our birthday.
I didn’t know it then but it was to be the last time we would be together physically. I wish I’d taken more time to drink in Yoli’s infectious laughter, her hilarious thirst trap stories, her dreams about the décor for the Langa home she was intending to move into soon, her advice to “throw your box (vagina) at that man” when I told her about my latest romantic story, her not-so-secret crush on local comic book artist Bill Masuku, her “I’m too pretty to go to jail” recollections and her latest published articles. We laughed and laughed for hours. I wish I had hugged her more and longer.
This photo perfectly sums up the vibrancy, the beauty, the magic of my Yoli. I loved her so.I love her still.
Trying to let go:
The news of her passing in 2021 hit me in waves. I stayed in bed, sobbed, read all of our messages to each other (every single social media inbox of mine is filled with our hilarious exchanges) and replayed her voice notes over and over the first day. Every day after that, I had to remind myself that she was gone because it felt unreal. I wanted to pick up the phone and call her or text her a message telling her she’d gotten the attention she wanted so could she please, for fuck’s sake, come back now?!
Grief and I had been intimately acquainted since I was 11 but it never ceased to amaze me how utterly cruel, senseless and overwhelming it could be.
As I continued to struggle with the finality of her passing and vowed that you, her much-longed for nieces and nephews, would always know her name and how much she believed in you, Yolisa herself gave me the strength and comfort to go on without her, courtesy of the message she sent me in the aftermath of your great-grandfather’s death:
I’ll try my best to get through everyday without you, my twin. I love you always.