I only met Simba Mhere once.

That’s all it took for him to leave an indelible impression on me.

I didn’t ask for his autograph during our hour-or-so interview. I wanted to play it cool and not come across as an over-eager groupie. He’d just been selected as Top Billing presenter and was taking it all in. I voted for him during the competition and when he won, I thought “I wish I could interview him one day.”

And there I was, listening to his amazing story and sharing in the joy of his relief and disbelief. I remember how amused he was that the girls who’d ignored him in school were suddenly sending him Facebook messages.

His authenticity and character spoke volumes: he would be able to handle the sudden fame. Here was an ordinary guy, who dared to dream big. He related a story of the disappointment he experienced when he met an internationally renowned comedian he admired. The “star” was rude to him and that was the moment that he vowed that if he ever became famous, he would always make time for his fans.

I told him that I’d check up on him to make sure he was still being nice as the years went on. He wasn’t fazed. Simba’s humour, humility and honesty made him unforgettable.

When I saw the terrible headline that Sunday morning, I didn’t expect to be so deeply affected by his death. I realised why the country was in mourning. Simba – and others like him – represent the hope of our country.

Young people who are passionate, educated and excited about the impact they can make in the world. The deep sense of loss we all felt also reflects the deep sense of hope we still have in the future of our country.

After all, South Africa is it’s people.

Essentially, Simba’s passing served to solidify things in my heart that I’ve known for a long time:

1. We can’t just keep saying that life is too short: What’s the point of just shaking our heads in sadness when we hear of young people dying? How are we being intentional about the way we live our lives everyday? If we don’t lead our own lives, something or someone else will. And Simba made the choice to lead his own life.

2. We need to honour the living – for real: I’ve had enough of platitudes. I would like to have as little regrets as possible when my time comes. I started an #HonourTheLiving tribute on my Facebook page so the people who have impacted my life know how I feel about them and how much I appreciate them. We need to let our loved ones know that we love them.

3. When you come alive, you help others do the same: The passion and pleasure Simba expressed in the work he was involved in was inspiring. In the words he adopted from a Robin Banks seminar: “Life is a menu, order what you want.” He had the courage to do that. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have known him and grown to love him.

4. We get to determine the legacy we leave: Are we really doing the things that matter to us or are we spending time on selfies and temporary entertainment? We all have a role to play in building a better country – don’t rob the world of your positive contribution.

5. We need to live with an eternal perspective: It’s easy to put off the important things for a tomorrow that may never come. My husband and I took decisive steps to get our wills done (the lawyer was surprised to see such a young couple in his office). You’re never too young to save for retirement and you’re never too young to have a will. Resolve to leave a blessing when you die, not a burden.

Rest in peace Simba. Your memory lives on in the hearts of thousands of South Africans who will continue to love you.

Let’s honour the memory of Simba – and our own friends and family members who showed us the beauty of life – by celebrating each day as the gift it is and living our lives from a place of authenticity and truth.

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