As she trudged along Kokoda with her fit, footballer son by her side, Lisa Cartledge didn’t think about giving up for even a moment.
It's just one foot in front of the other, which is a message in itself.Lisa Cartledge
She’s done a lot of walking since losing her husband Sean, the father of their three beautiful children, to suicide in 2014.
He died just one month before they were due to trek the gruelling Kokoda Track together.
So in November, 2017 Lisa set out with her 28-year-old son Thomas to finish what the Beechworth couple had planned.
“It was pretty hard – even Thomas said it was tough and he’s super fit,” Lisa conceded.
“But he was really happy to do it for his dad and I didn’t think for a minute I couldn’t keep going.
“You find the strength.”
In the days, weeks and months after Sean’s death, Lisa had to dig deep to find the strength to keep going – for herself and their children Thomas, Edward and Olivia.
One of the biggest challenges the family has faced was other people’s discomfort around the topic of suicide.
She vowed never to allow the awkwardness of others to silence their recollections of a wonderful dad and husband.
As Easter Saturday dawns on March 31, Lisa will start a 700-kilometre journey to stamp out the stigma of suicide.
She plans to walk from Beechworth to the place where Sean proposed, under the north side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Beechworth to Bridge walk aims to encourage open conversations in communities along the way and raise funds for suicide prevention.
Supported by a dedicated volunteer committee, Lisa admits organising the walk has been a bit of a logistical nightmare with red tape around insurance and traffic management altering the original plans.
Day one and two will see walkers head off from Beechworth to Yackandandah and then step on to Lavington.
From there they’ll take a bus, donated by Dysons, to towns where they will complete laps of high school ovals, sportsgrounds and even a lakeside walk.
The final leg of the journey will involve a walk along the footpath from Penrith to Parramatta before arriving at the Sydney Harbour Bridge on April 21.
“In one way it’s a better schedule as it allows for more community involvement and discussion,” Lisa said.
‘We’re keeping it casual - we’ve notified communities of dates and will ramp it up on social media a few days before our arrival.
‘We’ll stay in the local pub and have dinner; we’ll be wearing our t-shirts so hopefully that will invite conversations.”
Lisa hopes this will be the start of an annual walk – “wherever there is a bridge” – to show there is no shame in suicide.
“You walk and talk and think,” she said.
“It’s just one foot in front of the other, which is a message in itself.”