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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

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Riky Rick's mom on grief and Mount Everest Base Camp

Louisa Zondo. Pictures: Supplied

Louisa Zondo. Pictures: Supplied

Published Apr 28, 2022


Superstar Rikhado "Riky Rick' Makhado’s mom, Louisa Zondo, has an extraordinary depth of wisdom.

Having studied and qualified as a lawyer, her quest to find meaning in life drove her to now, becoming a life coach.

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“For some years now, the curiosity I have about the meaning of life, suffering, and how various elements of life – including human beings – connect to and participate in life has invited me into enquiries about who I am and spirituality. This has, in turn, exposed me to contemplative ways and meditative practices, the cultivation of which I find very useful in the ongoing process of opening up to the unfolding of life.”

Recently, Zondo took to Mount Everest Base Camp, an adventure she had committed to before the passing of her son, Riky Rick.

On her trek, she was embodied in a long conversation with her son while fulfilling a long-standing desire.

Finishing an expedition always leaves one speechless, and Zondo was not an exception.

“Even though the trek was always targeted at reaching Mount Everest Base Camp, reaching that point struck me as an indescribable surprise. I guess this statement on its own suggests that I do not have adequate words to describe the feelings I got when I reached Base Camp. At one moment, I felt the sense that my breath was taken away – literally taken away. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to take everything in, in solitude. I could sense a pulsating swelling at the temples,’’ she says.

Realising that she had finally reached Base Camp after walking some 64km over 10 days – four of the days being at altitude higher than 4000m above sea level was just one of the indescribable moments.

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“I now stood at 5364 m above sea level was something else. I don't have words for the flooding of sensation and emotion that came with realising that I stood with MaRiky. I stood with family and loved ones who are still alive and those who have departed. I stood with Riky's fans and so many who had connected with Riky following his passing from this side of life. I felt myself standing with so many who were engaging with the loss of loved ones in their lives and with devastating events in their lives, and my body felt the power of this presence in ways that I still cannot set out in words.

“I had all the time to just be present to the sensations which reverberated through my body. I also had the sense that this moment had changed something in me, and it was a lasting change. I was filled with gratitude.

“As I went on to lay a memorial for MaRiky at the Base Camp rock, it all was in the quiet of song: "Ndinik 'Amehlo Ndikhangele, Phezulu Ezulwini, Ndibone Khona Abangcwele, Bevuya Enkosini..." (Let Me Look Up, Up In Heaven, And See There Saints, Rejoicing In The Lord) The peace and quiet stayed with me. I was also in immense joy. When Xoli Kakana, my BFF, joined me at the Base Camp rock, I was absolutely ready to celebrate, and it truly was a celebration,” she adds.

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Louisa Zondo and friend, Xoli Kakana

Preparing for the adventure can be challenging. Zondo says she is convinced that the largest part of her preparation for such journeys is mental.

“So, I do a lot of visualisation in preparation for a major mountain expedition. This was my approach to preparing for Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018 and Mafadi the Drakensburg in 2019. I literally place myself in the mountain and allow myself to sense myself in the mountain as I engage with videos of the relevant mountain.

“For me, physical preparation involves enhancing my walking fitness. The Westcliff stairs are a very treasured gift for this purpose. For the Mount Everest expedition, I started my training in earnest at the end of December/beginning of January. I allowed myself to feel comfortable with doing the Westcliff stairs twice a week and completing 10 rounds of the stairs on each visit.

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“On a regular basis, I also walked on road surfaces and covered distances of 5 to 16 kilometres, depending on the opportunity. My intention with the regular walking was to bring my body to a state where it is happy to keep moving without any complaints for at least six hours,” she explains.

When asked why she chose to continue with trekking after Riky Rick passed, Zondo responded: “Between the day of Riky's passing and the day of his funeral, I was not trying to decide whether or not I would continue with the trek. I just remained open to whatever it was going to be. On the day of the funeral, however, I just knew that I would continue with the trek and that I would be trekking with Riky.

“I imagine that the funeral gave me some form of transformation. The funeral gave me an opportunity to truly "see" the depth of love and connection shared by so many of Riky's fans, colleagues and partners, loved ones, friends, family, observers, and the media, and this moved me to really explore how and what I was called to be in all of this. I am deeply grateful for this love. It gently pushed me into the trek, which became something of a journey towards finding myself.”

People process grief differently. For Zondo, grief has taken her through many states and places.

“The moments of light-heartedness coupled with a firm grounding in the idea that I am held in love and grace, and therefore all is well, stand alongside the gutted wailing and sense of everything being lost and meaningless. The times of feeling joy and holding Riky's presence in a place of equanimity get frozen by a sense that I miss my son and just want to see him, touch him and hear his voice here and now.

“I still run off to shed tears in private when I catch a glimpse of Bianca lovingly extending herself to selflessly care for others or when I observe a random loving act from a grandchild. The observations trigger thoughts of how deeply Riky loves his wife and children. They come at me with so much beauty and pain - I still buckle at the impact. “Grieving is teaching me to keep everything alive: to process it all and to allow it to be part of me as I continue to participate in life. The grieving process surely is different for everybody, and yet, others have told me that some elements of my grieving process stand out as points of resonance and healing for them. I also value so much the sharing that many have been able to bring me into.”

Zondo believes Riky’s legacy is of love and caring for each other - young people in particular, and to allow each other’s true self to shine.

“It is now up to each one of us to keep that legacy alive wherever we are, and in whatever way we are able to. As a family, we do not believe there is any alternative other than to keep the legacy alive,” says Zondo.

Despite the loss, Zondo has opened her heart wide to share in the pain of others.

“I hold in my heart and prayers all who are trying to make sense of loss in their lives, be it loss of loved ones or other devastating experience in their lives. I am aware of the limitations of holding space yet, I feel the compulsion to still do so. I feel the need to go down on my knees in a symbolic gesture of meeting up with the pain and to helplessly let you know that: I am so sorry. "I am sorry for this loss. I am so sorry that life as you know it has been devastated in this tragic manner.”

Zondo remains resolute on one thing: “ to do all that is available” to become and remain a "healing presence".

“The invitation is for us to walk the journey together as we encounter, acknowledge and take steps to transform and heal our trauma.”