36 Years


By Sister Hai An (Sister Ocean)


36 years

36 years was all you got
36 years
to learn, to laugh, to work and to love
36 years was all that you got

i don’t know what your last thoughts were
i just remember the last time i was with you
you dropped me and holly off to meet
mom and muc and pau,
the vietnamese refugee family our church had sponsored
i was so excited to visit them and to play with the baby
that all i remember was running out of the car
not even taking the time to hug you or to say goodbye
as you went in for your afternoon shift
before the car crash

of course i didn’t know that i’d never see you again
you didn’t know either
if we’d known then – everything would’ve been different
but if we came into the world knowing when we’d die
then, everything would be different

36 years was all you got
now i’m 36
i still feel young – young like you
and i still miss you
but i’m used to this version of a father-daughter relationship
it’s okay

i’m grateful to have only wonderful memories of you
i’m grateful to have received a strong body
and a good sense of direction from you
because we all know that i didn’t get that from mom!
i’m grateful to have received so much love from you
so much love
so much love

sometimes i wonder – will i this year too?
i don’t want to tempt the fates but i can’t help it
if i died in this 36th year, like you
would i have any regrets?

maybe being too good
it never gave as many rewards as it promised
i’ve already fulfilled a lot of my dreams
enough to see that there’s more to life than fulfilling one’s dreams
it’s not just about achievement
it’s about living each moment and loving it
even dreams can be taken for granted

your 36 years are always in the back of my mind
not a fear, just a reminder that we don’t know
when death will appear
not a worry or superstition but a sword of clarity
don’t wait to live the life you want!
still, i think i’d feel a little ripped off if i were to die this year
did you feel cheated? did you feel anything?
or were you really asleep behind the wheel

now i’m 36 and i’m driving extra careful this year
i’m living extra grateful, this year
i’m sending you even more love in this 36th year of mine
because 36 was all you got

i love you, dad and i just want you to be happy
yeah, you’re dead and still all i want is for you to be happy
i know that you had your fair share of pain
a lot more than me in my 36 years, it seems
i love you, dad and i just want you to be happy

if i get more than 36 years, i don’t know what i’ll do
but i’ll live for both of us, okay?
i’ll keep learning and laughing and working and loving
(well hopefully less working and more loving)
and i’ll sing for you too!
you always said that you couldn’t sing, which wasn’t true!
i was only a kid, but i remember
so i’ll sing for both of us, okay?
maybe even for another 36 years, or more!
who knows?

i love you, dad and i just want you to be happy
thanks for your 36 years

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  1. Hello Sister Ocean. Thank you for your poem.
    I am thankful for my 36 years, your 36 years, and your dad’s 36 years too.
    -Denise in Washington 🙂


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