1 year ago.....

One year ago today, the world lost a very special man. 

This man was a mentor, an educator, a great story teller and the chief optometrist of the New Port Richey VA clinic. 

He was a husband, father and son. A lover of life and someone who lived his entire life happy, patient, kind and supportive. 

This man was my dad. 

When a friend looses a family member/spouse, it is within our heart to be compassionate, sympathetic, empathetic and loving. 

When you are the one who loses a family member, your heart becomes empty because someone so very important to you, that you see or talk to all the time, is no longer sharing your life with you. 

Life presents many challenges but nothing was as hard as saying good bye to my dad one-year ago today. My dad lived his entire life as a strong, hard working, determined and busy man but sadly, he could not win on his 10-month fight with cancer. 
But as a lover of life, he sure fought hard. 

When I lost my dad, my sadness had me asking "why my dad?" 
Everyone in my family was upset that my dad, who had remained so healthy and active throughout his entire life, had to be the one who lost his life so early, at the age of 67. 

There were many times in the first few months after my dad's passing when I would find myself crying and saying "it's just not fair." We all grieve differently and although I forced myself to continue to love my life and never waste a day (just like my dad had always encouraged me to do), every now and then it would just weigh heavy on my heart that my dad could no longer live the life that he loved to live.  

I talked to my dad almost every day. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I called him every single day. 
Karel, Campy and I would visit my dad (and my mom) almost once every month from June 2014 to May 2014, driving 4 hours just to make more memories with my dad. 

Although I now no longer find myself asking "why my dad?" I now find myself most sad when something happens in my life, and he is no longer here to experience it with me. I find myself constantly experiencing new things in life and wishing that my dad was still here to share life with us. 

My mom has stayed incredibly strong and since my parents had their house on the market when Karel and I moved to Greenville last May, my mom is now settling into Greenville, making friends and staying busy. We also do a great job keeping her busy as Karel and I are constantly looking for fun ways to explore nature and stay active so my mom joins in on the fun (and also serves as a great Campy babysitter - which she loves). 

So much has happened over the past year that it's hard to really begin to explain how much I miss my dad. I feel like I did my best to stay strong and to continue on with life but something inside of me still hurts, that I have to do this for another year and many more years to come. 

My dad loved watching my brother and I participate in sports. He was so proud of his two student athlete children - in college it was gymnastics for my brother (he competed at University of Michigan) and swimming for me (first year at IUP and then sophomore until senior year at Transylvania University in my hometown of Lexington, KY). He spent many years driving us to practices, whether it was 4:45am for me or 6pm for Aaron. I always remember my dad being there for us - nothing was more important in his life than being there to support my brother Aaron and me. 

My dad walked me down the aisle when I married Karel in October of 2008 and even when my dad was recovering from his spinal surgery, he found the strength to walk down the aisle at my brothers wedding to Dana in Pittsburgh in September of 2013 (for one of the first times in three months). 

After graduate school, I started racing triathlons. No longer was my dad watching me race for less than 3 minutes but instead, he was standing on the sidelines with my mom for over 10 hours during my Ironman triathlon competitions. 

My dad never lived long enough to see Karel race in an Ironman but he spent many years hearing about Karel as a cat 1 cyclist and even attending some of his local cycling races around the Tampa Bay/Clearwater area. My dad was a great photographer! My dad was alive when Karel finished an Ironman in 2013 when we raced our first Ironman together in Lake Placid.

 My dad would have been so happy to know how well Karel is doing in triathlons these days especially with us both qualifying for the 2015 Ironman World Championships. And of course, as a fellow runner, I know he would have constantly kept asking Karel how fast he is running these days (my dad always knew Karel had the need for speed - whether it was in a car, on a bike or on two feet). 

Beyond athletics, my dad was very proud of his children. My brother works for Ernst & Young which is the third largest professional services firm in the world. As for me, well Karel and I have our own small business (Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition), which has been a long-time dream for me.
I watched my dad for many, many years, enjoy his job and never sought an early retirement. He never ever complained about working. I always desired something similar in my career so after 9 years of higher education, I found a career that is rewarding, fulfilling and really makes me happy. I have my dad to thank for always supporting me and for never letting me give up on my dreams. 

Just over a month ago, Karel and I bought our first home. This was years in the making and really a dream come true for us because we have worked very hard and have saved a lot to be able to afford a place that we can call our own in Greenville, SC. Karel came to the US with only a backpack and I remember once having negative dollars in my bank account after graduate school. My dad was all about hard work and he taught us that all the time. 

As much as I loved having my dad support me in athletics and in my career, I constantly find myself saying "Dad would  know how to do/fix that" when we talk about things around our new house. Whereas once I was sad because I didn't understand why my dad's life was taken way too early, I find myself now getting sad more often, just because he knew how to do everything - and he enjoyed helping us when we didn't know how to do something. 

 I wish my dad was here to go to Lowe's with Karel. My dad would know exactly what we need for our house/lawn/garage. My dad had every tool and he loved working on projects. He was a skilled craftsman and was a wonderful landscaper. 

I often find myself imagining how excited my dad would have been to work on projects with Karel around our new home. Karel and my dad had a great relationship for they shared so many things in common - like cars, electronics, gadgets. 

I can't believe it's been a year since I lost my dad. I really don't know how time can just pass like that. It feels like yesterday when I said good-bye. 

My dad rests peacefully here in Greenville, SC. Every time Karel and I travel somewhere to make memories together, we find the perfect rock from nature, to put on my dad's grave site. This is our way of bringing my dad with us wherever we go and wherever life takes us.
When Karel and I race, we wear my dad's favorite Corvette hats. 

On Sunday I will celebrate my 33rd birthday. For almost 32 years, I had the honor of calling Dr. Jim Rakes, my dad. I am thankful for my mom and dad bringing me into this world, and for raising me to be who I am today. 

I will never forget how amazing of a dad I had - he was so supportive to me and my brother (and a great father in law to Karel and Dana). I will always remember what a wonderful husband he was to my mom and just a one-of-a-kind person that everyone wanted to be around. 

I'm so thankful that my dad was always there for me in my life growing up as I have so many memories to hold on to for the rest of my life. Even though my dad's life is gone, I know he is still guiding me, supporting me and encouraging me, everyday of my life. 

Love you dad.