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BOOK EXTRACT

Louisa Zondo’s new memoir is dedicated to her late son Riky Rick

Louisa Zondo’s new memoir is dedicated to her late son Riky Rick
'Dearest MaRiky' by Louisa Zondo. (Composite image: The Reading List)

Twenty-five days after her son’s Riky Rick’s death by suicide, Louisa Zondo embarked on an expedition to Mount Everest Base Camp, seeking solace and clarity in the mountains.

When much-loved music star Riky Rick died by suicide in 2022, his mother Louisa Zondo’s loss was shared by millions. 

In her new memoir, Dearest MaRiky: A Mother’s Journey through Grief, Trauma and Healing, through a series of letters to her cherished son, Zondo confronts her grief head-on. She delves into the trauma of her past, where she finds the words to express the pain of losing her son. But this is not just a story of loss. It is one of resilience, of a mother’s unwavering love, and of a determination to honour her son’s legacy by caring for others, especially young South Africans. Read the excerpt.

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24 March 2022

Dear MaRiky,

Today is Day 5 of the team’s trek, and Day 4 for Aunty Xoli and me. We had an ‘active’ rest day, which saw us walk slowly for three and a half hours to the Everest Viewing Hotel 3 880m above sea level.

From the restaurant deck, we were able to get a glimpse of the summit of Mount Everest. This was a brief window of opportunity, as the mountaintop soon became completely cloaked in clouds. How exhilarating!

We encountered incredibly scenic landscapes, yaks silently grazing, throughout the mountainous terrain. My heart was filled with joy.

I recalled your enormous warmth. Reels of videos capturing your playful soul came to mind, as I absorbed the serenity of the moment. MaRiky, the breathtaking beauty of this mountain is laced with stark contrasts and contradictions of deep-rooted hardship, toil and exploitation. Experiencing these reminds me of how your life continuously taught me to hold in awe both the great joys of life and the devastating harms of our existence.

It brought into focus a thought shared by James Finley in a lecture I heard many years ago on Transforming Trauma. It goes something like, ‘You know that you love someone when you have had a glimpse of something so beautiful in them, that it can never die.’

It’s blissful to realise that your life gave real meaning to this wisdom. I am grateful to this Mount Everest Base Camp trek for presenting me with this insight.

You remain immense beauty, MaRiky. I joyfully confirm that, to me, you can never die.

I love you to infinity, MaRiky.

Mama 

25 March 2022

Dear MaRiky,

Our trek has brought us to Lobuche. This is Day 5 of our trek. On today’s walk, we gained some elevation and reached one of the oldest monasteries in Nepal, at 3 700m, then descended to 3 400m to sleep low at the Paradise Lounge and Restaurant in Lobuche.

Internet connectivity is rather weak at this point, and I may not be able to transmit this message. We will certainly have no connectivity over the next two days in Tengboche, so the posting of my musings on those days will be delayed until connectivity is established. Today’s seven-hour trek was filled with richness. We got the opportunity, once again, to observe Mount Everest.

As we continued to trek upwards, for two and a half hours on a truly steep trail, it occurred to me that while Mount Everest is the highest of all peaks in the world, from where we were, it appeared lower than the other peaks in the Himalayan range. This is a matter of perspective and it led me to consider how I have so often acted on what I perceive with my physical senses – as if it was the only and absolute truth. I thought how easily I go about life blinded to perspective. As is characteristic of the mind, this led to thinking on numerous areas, including mental health.

Your death, MaRiky, was met with deep shock, pain and sadness internationally. It ignited wide discussion about depression and mental illness in general. As I thought about the range of traumas that affect our mental health, I found myself reviewing ways in which society is experiencing collective traumas. Thoughts about the violence of misogyny, racism, corruption, greed, poverty, inequality and other injustices brought darkness to my spirit. I found myself grappling with how we hold the devastating effects of our collective and personal traumas. As society, how do we intentionally attend to and strengthen mental health? How do we become a society that provides all – young people in particular – with access to means of transcending and transforming trauma?

MaRiky, you were vocal about the reality of depression and mental health in the creative industry. You never missed the opportunity to express your views on the duty each of us has to care for others. How do we build on this, and centre caring and mental health in the fabric of society?

26 March 2022

Dear MaRiky,

The trek today, Saturday, was truly challenging. At 7.30am we started out from Paradise Lounge and Restaurant in Deboche. I suspect that yesterday, ‘mountain brain’ had already set in with me, because my post has inexplicable references to our trekking team being in Lobuche instead of Deboche (3 400m).

Today we headed for Dingboche, at an altitude of 4 400m.

It seems my body can only promise to carry me if I maintain a pattern of extremely slow, measured movements and breathe intentionally. I comply, and for three and a half hours before lunch, I keep a snail’s pace through steep inclines and rocky terrain.

Another three and a half hours of incredibly challenging, slow walking eventually gets me to our tea house. Against the recommendation of our sterling team leader – who advised us to lie down in our sleeping bags and rest for two hours before supper – most of our team stayed huddled around a wood fire/imbawula in the centre of the dining room until supper time. In the cold of this afternoon, we just could not imagine slipping ourselves into our sleeping bags, getting warm and cosy there and thereafter stepping out into the freezing cold in order to have supper. It was too much to contemplate.

For most of today’s trek, we walked in silence, giving full attention to the effort of placing one foot in front of the other. In this solitude, the contemplation of yesterday’s reflections on mental health continued and delved into the question of healing.

I reflected on an experience where I had called someone out on views that seemed based on racial privilege. I asked her to pause and consider how the views she was sharing negated and erased the lived experience of racism in South Africa. I also reflected on the physical pain I felt in my body at what I took as the violence of racism.

I wondered why this particular incident – which, in all honesty, was not unique and unheard of – had triggered me in such a direct and painful way. I wondered whether the embodied pain was a reflection of the heavy burden that racism and its impacts continue to be. I wondered how the collective South African trauma of racism is actually felt, if the relatively contained experience I was reflecting on had caused me so much pain and anguish.

I wondered what it would look like for the trauma of racism to be comprehensively surfaced, acknowledged and apologised for, and if effective reparations were to be made. I wondered how and when the people of South Africa might begin to address the lasting effects of the trauma of the apartheid system. In other words, how do we sincerely deal with what was done to us and the manifestations of those misdeeds? I wondered what a South Africa would look like in which all persons, cultures and legacies fully belong, devoid of notions of supremacy and privilege.

Based on all these questions, MaRiky, I need to explore how my personal healing could possibly begin. Even as I highlight personal healing, I am fully aware that race and racism are not personal phenomena. And yet they are so personal in their effects.

Therefore, recognising that the trauma of racism continues to have authority over my body, mind and soul, I wonder whether my healing from this trauma might not start from me claiming my true identity as a divine spiritual being beyond all forms of trauma – personal and collective wounding – towards my transformation as a healing presence in the world. A healing presence to myself and to the community in all its constructions.

This is something I must continue to explore, my love.

Mama 

DM

Dearest MaRiky: A Mother’s Journey through Grief, Trauma and Healing by Louisa Zondo is published by Jacana Media (R240). Visit The Reading List for South African book news, daily – including excerpts.

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