A FEW DAYS FROM now, nearly three years since he perished on a mountain in Oregon, the remains of young Frank Allard III will come home to rest in the valley that he loved.
Frank was 19, a student at the University of Oregon, when he and Michael Casey of Chino, Calif., were reported missing Nov. 5, 1995, after they failed to return from a climb on North Sister, a rugged 10,000-foot peak near Eugene.Ten days later, a massive search by more than 100 rescuers was halted after storms swept the area with high winds and heavy snowfall.
Meanwhile in Carmel Valley, Calif., Frank's parents, Frank and Yoshi Allard, were struck by the awful irony that their son - a sweet, gentle boy who at 16 had climbed Japan's Mount Fuji alone at night to reach the summit at sunrise - had died doing what he loved best.
"I couldn't hope he was still alive, " said Yoshi Allard. "It was too clear to me that he was up there on that mountain. Miracles can happen, but the reality of this was too grim."
So the Allards did what families do when a loved one is lost: They took care of the business of saying goodbye.
First, they went to Oregon to clear out Frank's dorm room and to thank rescuers who had risked their lives trying to find him. They met Michael Casey's parents and shared the burdens of their losses.
They packed up all that was left of Frank - his books, posters, T-shirts, shoes, the photos he'd shot and the house plants he'd watered. And they brought it all home to Carmel Valley, to the hills where he had learned to hike almost before he could walk.
They held a memorial service and hosted a reception. They set up a scholarship at Carmel High School, where Frank graduated with honors, and established an endowment in his memory at the University of Oregon.
They grieved, as only parents can grieve, and tried to get on with their lives.
"As a mother, I couldn't stand living longer than my child," said Yoshi. "It was so unfair. I wanted to die, too. But I knew I couldn't change my destiny."
So Yoshi did something her son had urged her to do after he left for college: She got a license and started flying.
"It sounds crazy," she said laughing, "but we both love high places. I feel closer to him when I fly."
Two years ago, a persistent search team recovered Michael Casey's body from the mountain but found no trace of Frank.
Then Yoshi had a dream.
"I hadn't dreamed about Frank in three years," she said. "But last weekend I dreamed that he was sleeping in a hospital bed. And the next day, we got a call."
Searchers found Frank's body on Sunday, she said, 100 feet from where they had found Michael Casey. The news brought a bittersweet relief.
"I don't know why I had that dream," Yoshi said, "but I treasure it. I think Frank wanted to come home."
And so, she said, he will.
She and her husband and their daughter will go to Oregon soon and bring Frank's remains back to Carmel Valley.
A mountain might be a fine resting place for a boy who loved high places. But to a mother, be it high or low, there is no place like home.