‘It was painful, a time filled with a lot of tears’ - Letshego Zulu on how she found the strength to write her book

Letshego Zulu (right) with a guest at the Nelson Mandela Foundation
Letshego Zulu (right) with a guest at the Nelson Mandela Foundation
Nelson Mandela Foundation

Two months later, Letshego Zulu who was there when he lost his life, went back to Kili. She was still in pain. But the fitness fanatic had made a choice: to live. 

“When Gugu passed away, I had to go back to my principle that I had since I was a teenager…that there is a time for everything under the sun. My heart was shattered but I had to accept, almost from the beginning, that he is gone,” she says.

This was the first step to her healing.

READ MORE: Letshego Zulu pens book about 'life after Gugu'

The trip that ended in Gugu losing his life was part of an expedition, as part the Trek4Mandela initiative in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and Letshego was also part of the team that would summited Kili. 

At the time the couple had been together for 16 years and had a young daughter, Lelethu.

In her recently launched book, I Choose to Live: Life After Losing Gugu, which she wrote to share her experience in the hope that it will help readers heal from their own loses, Letshego relives those heart-wrenching moments that led to her then 38 year old husband losing his life.

READ MORE: SA racing legend Gugu Zulu would have turned 41 today

The first five chapters of the book took her about eight months to write. She recalls how on that fateful night struggled with respiratory problems. He had to descend due to the medical emergency. Letshego, together with some guides, had to run down the mountain for eight hours behind Gugu who was on a stretcher to find medical care. 

Speaking about retelling this tear-jerking story of courage and hope, Letshego says, “It was painful, a time filled with a lot of tears. I found myself writing one paragraph at a time and putting down the pen, and coming back to writing a week later. But once I got into the lessons I could draw from this loss, it became easier to write.” 

READ MORE: These 10 local fitness stars will inspire you to be even more badass

Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in Houghton, where she was in conversation with Cathy Mohlahlana on the book, Letshego spoke candidly about life without Gugu and what gave her strength to put pen to paper about her most intimate moments. Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Richard Mabaso, CEO of the Imbumba foundation, which, together with mountaineer Sibusiso Vilane, founded Trek4Mandela were also on the panel with Letshego.

Asked by Cathy if she ever considered that one of them may not come back from the expedition alive. Letshego admits it never crossed their minds.

“We all have out little black book of life and our exit will forever remain unknown. It’s up to us who are left here on earth to process that and accept the unthinkable because the clock never stops ticking. And when the unthinkable happens, we have to find the strength somewhere, somehow, to accept,” she says.

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Has she ever regretted their decision to summit Kili? Letshego tells W24 that the trip was planned for several years prior.

“We are lovers of life, lovers of adventure. He died doing something that he loved, so I don’t have any regrets about the expedition.”

Letshego summited Kili successfully a year after Gugu’s passing and in her book she shares that the trip did not bring her closure but it brought peace, a sense of completion and a greater ability to continue living life to the full. 

Letshego also did a book signing after the discussion.

Letshego is proud to have added author to her name and has plans to start a new business in addition to her current business, PopUpGym which she co-owns with Khethiwe Mlangeni.

“I am working on bulding Letshego. I wake up every morning and press the reset button, and I open up my arms for whatever opportunity that is out there,” she says.

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