Home' Aurora : Aurora June 2013 Contents The film "The Way", starring Martin Sheen
and his son Emilio Estevez, honours the
relationship between a father and his son,
and the importance of the journey. This
story by Merri Rumble about her sister, Judy
Frost, adds a local dimension to these
themes and will not leave you unmoved.
A son's story
In 2009 Christopher Frost, 26, was climbing
the ladder in junior management positions
of an international hotel chain. He was also
working toward his dream of walking the
Kokoda Track in honour of his grandfather,
Bill (recently deceased) and his father, Ken,
both career soldiers in the Australian Army.
Already healthy, strong and fit, Chris and a
colleague eagerly embarked on the training
regimen: mountain climbing, walking,
cycling, running and gym workouts. This
continued for about six months.
The fitness standards were met, and the
time was right. They flew to Brisbane on
20 April, to Port Moresby the next day,
organised packs and supplies, and with
tour leaders and porters in tow, set off. The
plan was to be at the Isurava battle site for
After a night's rest all were ready to take
on the challenges ahead. However, as the
day progressed, Chris began to feel unwell.
The group rested frequently, cooled down
in water courses and when Chris felt ready,
forged onward. Tour leaders and medics
responded to his needs immediately but
soon he became abnormally overheated
At Ioribaiwa Chris became acutely unwell.
The trek was halted and camp set up. Chris
told his mate and colleague, "I'm feeling
crook -- I'm going to lie down." His friend
went to freshen up with instructions to
"Keep an eye on Frostie." The medic looked
into the tent and found Chris burning up.
Immediate resuscitation measures were
commenced to no avail. It only took fifteen
A shroud of sadness, shock and anxiety
encompassed the camp. How could this
happen, especially to one so well prepared
for this encounter? Due to bad weather the
retrieval helicopter could not land. Overnight,
the village women kept vigil around Chris'
body. The trek had to continue, so with
heavy hearts the team set off, minus a
companion, but placing themselves in the
care of the omnipotent One.
It took several days for Chris to be
repatriated; all the clinical and pathological
tests were inconclusive. Heatstroke and
maybe sodium deficiency were deemed the
probable causes of his death.
A mother's story
On that Tuesday evening about 11pm, Judy
answered a knock on her door to find Chris'
Dad, Ken, and a local policewoman before
her. They broke the tragic news. Shock,
numbness and disbelief at the loss of her
only son set in. I was with my sister at this
time, and despite her shock, sadness and
distress, I did not see her angry.
Judy and Ken were faced with breaking this
devastating news to Alison, their daughter
and Christopher's sister. There's no need
to write more of the family's loss. Their son
and brother's life was cut short but his
memory will remain.
However, Judy was grappling with a
mother's longing to know more about her
boy's last day. She needed to see 'his
places' for herself. She needed to tread
where he trod, touch the soil, inhale the
air, experience the humidity. She needed
something more tangible than words, and
maybe this could become part of her
healing. The seed was sown -- she would
do for her boy, his father and his sister what
he couldn't do for himself -- she would walk
the Kokoda Track.
Early in 2012 Judy began training, walking
around Taree and environs, climbing 'the
Brothers', scrambling through bush and
briars, struggling along rocky ledges and
returning scarred and scratched, battered
and bruised. She joined walking groups
with whom she formed special bonds. A
carefully monitored gym program also
featured strongly in her preparations. Feisty
as a Rottweiler, nothing would stand in her
Judy had faith in Chris' travel group, and
met their fitness criteria. On 14 July 2012
she set out on the journey of a lifetime. It
became cathartic: walking through thick
jungle, battling freely running waters,
dragging through thick, deep mud,
clambering over meshy roots, attacking
steep ascending and descending gradients
with descents often being worse than
Judy was the elder stateswoman of the trek
group in her mid-60s. The camaraderie of
the group was obvious and the support of
the porters was amazing.
The first days were a struggle as fear of
the unknown loomed. The track was
110kms, to be completed in seven days,
walking at an achievable pace. Coping with
blisters, knees, abrasions, humidity, and
general body impact injuries was an added
challenge. Campsites were organised along
the track with one-man tents set up and
ablutions blocks ready. Fires were lit to cook
food from the trekkers' ration packs.
The village children were excited to see
them and of course the trekkers supported
their stalls, buying tropical fruit and canned
drinks to boost their sugar levels. Villages
were primitive with shelters of palms and
Memorial services at two of the main
battle sites along the track, Brigade Hill
and Isurava, were emotional and spiritual
experiences for all. Throughout the trek, the
leaders told the history of the significant
places, and the 'rawness' of the track really
raised an awareness of the difficulties faced
by our soldiers who were helped by the
Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels during the war.
At last Judy was at 'Christopher's place',
Ioribaiwa, and she could experience its
beauty and specialness. It was a long-
awaited epiphany. Before leaving Ioribaiwa
the next morning, the group held a poignant
service. Some of the villagers who were
there when Christopher died were present
and one of the ladies at the service spoke to
Judy and said they "would always look after
Christopher's place." The travel company is
erecting a plaque in Christopher's memory.
Judy looks back on this trek as the hardest
thing she has done and probably ever will
do. She is gratified to have achieved it
physically, mentally and spiritually and says
she couldn't have done it without her faith
and her friends.
"Throughout the trek we had no rain.
However, when we arrived at Ioribaiwa,
Chris' place, a beautiful place, I sat down
to take off my boots and then a sun shower
happened! It was like a message from
heaven, as if Chris was saying, 'I'm here
Mum and it's all ok.
This story appeared first in "The Parish
Paper", a publication from the Parish of
A mother walks Kokoda
to honour her son
Above: Judy Frost at home.
BY MERRI RUMBLE
Christopher Frost, 1982-2009.
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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