Yesterday the world became a little bit of a smaller place. Jimi Flowers, Paralympic Swim coach, friend, mentor, loving father and husband died after falling while climbing Capitol Peak in Aspen, CO. Jimi was a 47 year old lover of life and the news was tragic and unexpected. It has deeply affected all that knew him as it was impossible for him to meet anyone without leaving a lasting impression. I really met Jimi in 2008 when I moved out to the Olympic Training Center. He believed in me the way not many people could and watched as we swam hundreds and thousands of laps shaping our strokes to make us the best we could be. But beyond the pool, he shaped us in our everyday lives. A dedicated family man who's love for his wife and kids shone through in everything he did. A follower of Christ, a man who is said to be a walking explanation point as anything small or big was the greatest thing ever!!! Peace signs and 'Yo's' a plenty he is a man who was always quick with a smile or a joke. He believed in me and at the Paralympic Trials he was the one I looked to for reassurance. After hearing my name announced as making the Paralympic team, his smile made the moment that much greater. And in Beijing when my performance was not up to par, he was the first to let you know that 'it is what it is' and it was going to be OK. He drove me to be the best I could be and without him, I would not be a Paralympian. Through all my Paralympic experiences I owe who I have become to him. Without him I would only have half my story. His smile and endless energy will be missed. In the short time I've knwn him he had become one of the greatest men Ive ever known and his memory will live on in all that knew him.
After hearing of his death, it makes everything else seem so much less important. Alaska is of course, still on the table, and I leave for that journey this Sat. I know that Jimi would want things to continue and encourage us to keep going. I will ride this race in honor of him and I know he'll be looking down from heaven screaming 'go, go, go' with his trademark shaggy hair and baseball cap. Training has been a plenty and I am ready and will be fine. To all the bear and moose out there; bring it on...
There was a week of backpacking through Olympic National Park. 17 miles of what we thought to be a beginner trail was one of treacherous rock fields, lots of sandy beaches and inclines so steep they needed ladders and ropes. After 17 miles I was amazed by what I had accomplished. My first real hiking experience with a backpack and I had made it. When I got back I wrote to Jimi to tell him of our adventure and I got a one line reply back saying 'Im proud of you'. That made the accomplishment that much sweeter.
Over the 4th of July Dick and I went out to SC to see my family. It's easy to take advantage of what life offers and family and friends until tragedy happens. I knew when I left SC and got to see my new niece and my nephews, my parents and sister that I was a pretty lucky girl. After loosing Jimi, I am beyond lucky to have them here and alive and to have had them around the last 29 years. it is now that I wish I lived closer to see them more and to be more active in their lives.
There have been more 5K's all of which my time has improved. The latest being yesterday in 33 minutes. It was hard. Really hard. I heard the news of Jimi as soon as I finished and was in shock. Yesterday was a day filled with tears and talking to many of my teammates. He is a great man gone much much too soon.
I am heading to CO at some point this week for the memorial service. I think some of the team and I will go out a day early to spend some time together and speak of all the good times we had with him.
To learn more about Jimi follow this link: http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=102018515921&h=kDIJx&u=1Y-pi&ref=mf
I hope you can all thank your lucky stars to be here and to be surrounded by those you love. Call your parents, hug your family and friends. Life is just too short.
As Jimi often said, Peace Out!