Good-bye, Lil D…and Greggory..Two Nephews in One Year

Good-bye, Lil D…and Greggory..Two Nephews in One Year


A handsome, sporty young man, he was. Intelligent and warm. He was my debonair nephew, my only son’s cousin, the last son of Avery Sarden’s aunt, Shari Sarden. He was born and raised in Detroit, knew the streets, mean and hard, like the back of his hand in the darkest night. Yet he was love and loved. His beautiful, spirited mother, Shari, raised him both alone and with the loving support of her village of a family, the Sarden Family.

He died this week, shot in the back. He was nineteen. The family knew him as Lil D. As a baby and small boy, he was short and thick, a miniature bruiser, adorable. He was huggable, lovable. He made you want to squeeze him and kiss his chubby cheeks.

As a young man, he cultivated an inimitable swag, just sugar sharp, as Southerners might say. In his world, he moved with confidence. He danced with style and grace. I will miss his easy, ready smile, his willingness to embrace friends and family.

According to Avery, Lil D had spoken of relocating to the South with his mother, after his brother’s death. But for whatever reason, he remained in Detroit and the streets claimed him…as surely as night the day will wring.

Although I have known now for several hours, a large part of me cannot believe he is gone, like his older brother, Greg, who died in the service, in the U.S. Marine Corp. A gifted poet, charming, engaging, handsome, family-oriented, ambitious and fun-loving, Greggory Dowdell, Jr. was a honeysuckle breeze on a sunny Detroit day. Courageous, he served two tours in Iraq prior to his Home going and was about to serve another tour. His position, as a decorated sharp shooter, he died in a Marine-maneuver accident in California earlier this year.

My family and I traveled to Detroit to stand with the my son’s Auntie Shari and the Sarden Family back around Memorial Day. Greg was about Avery’s age, 22 years old. He was the first of my son’s cousins to die. I remember him as a little boy, gorgeous and fast, with a brush haircut, always racing, zipping up the sidewalk beside and in front of Little Avery, when we visited. Since those glory days and divorce and the passage of time, I had only heard of Greg’s magnanimous adventures from this one and that one. I was proud, despite absentia. So when he fell, I stopped the merry-go-round of my world and went to stand in a show of love and solidarity with Avery, Shanice Smith, and my grand baby, Nazir Sarden. In two cars, we traveled with Aunt Debra and Avery’s cousin DeLaina Sarden, his Uncle DeLaine’s daughter.

Now, with Lil D’s leave-taking, I will travel North and stand with the Sarden Family, alongside Avery, Shanice and Lil Naz, as an act of love and togetherness. For when all differences and circumstances are spread across the table like empty plates after the repast, we are one. We are family, and that is what families do.

Below is a picture of Greg. I couldn’t help but snap a picture of him in my private, viewing moment with him before the funeral. Although his remains looked nothing like the vibrant Greggory of my memory, one thing is for certain: the U.S. Marines gave him a hero’s send-off, complete with slow, saluting marches to the coffin that lasted throughout the service, a distinguished former-Marine who delivered a memorable tribute, and the sorrowful shooting tribute at graveside. Through it all, Shari was a rock, holding up like the young queen that she is. How were we to know that she would bow under another adieu to her second and final son within a four-month period?

I thank Shari for allowing me to speak on program, sharing Greg’s obituary with the gathering and reading some of his poignant poems. Near his casket were huge frames of pictures chronicling Greg’s youth. I was in some of those pictures. Our paths had crossed for a time, like mine and Lil D’s, and I am blessed and the richer for the crossings.


In the photo below, Lil D smiles beside his Uncle Lindsey. The smile on his face is that of a boy. His uncle was someone he admired, someone to whom he listened, even when others thought he didn’t. It is all in the smile, in the eyes, two portals to the soul that never fabricate.
There is a time we must come, and a time we must go. The two are set in stone. We need not fret about them. All we are called to do is to make choices each moment of our lives between our birth and our death.


Each life is precious, no matter what the choices. Judgment is not ours to mete. Greg and Lil D are two lights in the tapestry of stars in my night…they burned brightly…in different ways…and then were summoned back into the heavens…from which they came.
God is forever at the helm of our days, so it rains inside my heart today, heavier than the rain that fell in the night, last night, when the heart-wrenching news came. But the day sparkles outside my windows this morning, and I know sorrow does not last always…
We love you always, both of you……..
The Golden Goddess
October 7, 2009


He Came To Play His Part
“For the Bookmark”

When he entered this world
He came to play his part
First, sweetly claiming his mother’s heart
No thoughts to when he’d depart
For those dates:
When he came
And when he left
The angels maintained and sang the glad tidings
While he managed the rest
Filling his days with the life he loved best…

From baby to boy to young man
He was who he was
Handsome, smooth, genuine, sweet
No one else could in his shoes stand
He was the teen with the easy smile, the ready laugh, his presence a treat
Rarely blue,
Vibrant, he insisted on living up to the name he knew
Mister D,
A precious passage he traversed
From thick baby Lil D to tall, slender Mister D, a darling to the ladies…

To see him float across a dance floor
Was to bow to enchanted lore
Some have it, some don’t
He mastered it. Call it swag or cool. As a rule, he was the door to Good Times
And at our core
We know that nothing he relished was a chore
Because he lived the revelry of his nineteen years,
Dear,
To those who held him near….

Indeed, he came to play his part
Made the choices he made
For whatever reasons, his lessons were his to impart
He taught them well
In the love, camaraderie, affection and brotherhood which tells
How much he will be missed
Yes, only Spirit knows why he came
Why this year he had to go
Plus all the answers to the questions we long to know
Yet some things were between him and God
So his Mother, Grandmother and the entire family bow
To the indisputable knowing of a Higher Power
That came to comfort him in his final hour….
Claudia Sarden
October 12, 2009

**************************************************************************************

Let Not My Living Be In Vain
(for D.S.)

Let not my living be in vain
I found joy in most everything
So no, I do not complain
God is in charge of me and all things.

Tear drops can wash away your pain
Tis true, yet I don’t want you feeling blue
Go stand outside in the rain
Until my memory baptizes you.

Let not my living be in vain
Use my leaving as a reminder to live your dreams
Listen! I hear the roar of a coming train
Why not meet it with hope, faith and the joy life brings?

Don’t pine I left yesterday
Just gather ye rosebuds as ye may
Who you know came to stay?
Me…I’m too busy praisin’ the Lord I passed this way.
So don’t come or call
Tryin’ to figure out what went down
The message on my answering machine is meant for all
Find a way to love somebody and help him build on solid ground.

To my boys,
Hold yo’ head up and make peace with yourselves
And stop treatin’ one another like Tonka toys
Do something positive with yo’ time. You ain’t twelve.

To my sweet lady,
I know it seems shady
I won’t be physically there to hold you and whisper how much I care
But I love you. And remember, in Spirit, I’m always there.

I love everybody, from Mama to the last person in the back pew.
Got no judgments now, but that ain’t news.
So don’t judge how I’m speakin’
My Auntie Claudia’s tweekin’ these lines
And this is how she spits her poems most of the time.
All I want you to remember, from January to December is “Love is Divine.”
© Auntie Claudia Sarden October 12, 2009

*************************************************************************************

I Will Remember You
(For Master Derek Sarden)

I will remember you in late-summer sunsets
In the pink and grey streaks that
Paint the Detroit morning skies
With no tears to sit in my eyes
Loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moment of the lesson
Every second is our gift, our recollection.

I will remember you in a group of teenagers
When I see you in the slick stride
And “What you lookin’ at eyes?” when I offer a word of advice
My intent to encourage and overlook Fear’s need kindness to ice
Loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moment of the lesson
Every second is our gift, our recollection.

I will remember you in a stranger’s flash of a smile
When in that moment, we realize we are one in Spirit
The cherished times we safeguard in your Mama’s albums and picture frames
And the golden memories of you and your cousins immersed in backyard games
Surely loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moment of the lesson
Every second is a gift, our recollection.

I will remember you on your Mama’s lap
Chubby legs keeping up a rat-a-tap-tap
Greg standing beside you, a big boy, the ever-protective brother
Both of you, Mister D and Greg, loving beyond love your beautiful mother
You, who adored the uncles and delighted in the aunties, was too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moments of the lesson
Thank you, God, for our gifts, our recollections.

I will remember you, this you’ll see
For you, now Spirit, will never be far, far away
Whenever I close my eyes, there you’ll be
Returning healthy, whole, complete, even more vivid than yesterday
It’s true. Loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moments of the lesson
Every second is your gift, your recollection.
© Claudia Sarden October 12, 2009

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