Monday, April 18, 2022

Remembering My Lil Cousin; Filled With Grief and Questions

William D’Chaun Lockhart, John W. Fountain’s cousin

By John W. Fountain

ACCRA, Ghana — I was here in Ghana when the news about my lil’’ cousin D’Chaun came. Months later, I am still staggering, lost somewhere between grief and anger in this cloud of death and uncertainty that has unsettled our lives since the pandemic.

These feelings find, swarm, overshadow me, even on Easter Sunday, despite my corner here in this sun-splashed West African paradise as the ocean’s waves crash and the wind blows through the branches of coconut and palm trees. I should be in a tranquil state of mind. But I am in an emotional No-Man’s Land, wrestling with my duo reality of life and death.

“We lost Chaun about 2:00 this morning,” read the text message Dec. 21, at 12:26 p.m. Ghana time (6:26 a.m. in Chicago) and four days before Christmas from his mother, Donna, my first cousin who growing up was more like a sister. “No phone calls right now, just pray for my strength.”

I texted back: “I’m so so so sorry.”

We lost Chaun…

The words were difficult to process, though I understood. Even if I could not accept that at age 36, my cousin William D’Chaun Lockhart, who was more like a close nephew or a son, was dead. COVID was not the culprit but a rare disease he had been battling for some time.

I had seen D’Chaun weeks before leaving at the end of November for my Fulbright Scholarship in Ghana, as I made a point of trying to see those most important to me, fully conscious that life — and death — are what happens when you make other plans.

I’ve learned to not take life for granted. To embrace the breath of each new morning, to not leave things unsaid. To live, laugh and love because nothing is promised, except, as the old adage assures: “death and taxes.”

The fact that I was not able to be there for D’Chaun’s funeral services or to pay my last respects with family, to whisper final words above his grave or lay flowers, perhaps deepens my pain, at least prevents a sense of closure.

I was angry. So damn angry in the days, weeks and months that passed since D’Chaun’s passing. Angry and deeply shaken that D’Chaun was gone.

William D’Chaun Lockhart with his mother Donna


My Facebook post read:

“I know there will be lots of things said and written about my lil’ cuz William Fitf Element Lockhart I tried to reach him last week by phone from Ghana to let him know I loved him and was thinking about and praying for him. That I was using his music in a new video.

We finally connected by Messenger, our words few. Just sharing love from big cuz to lil’ cuz. He called me “JWes,” short for my first and middle names John Wesley.

He was — and will forever be in my mind — a creator, a musical spirit whose eyes and cheeks filled with joy when he was mixing beats or playing keyboard.

That joy and love was second only to his love and joy for his sons, all of them. He loved family. It filled his heart. We talked intimately about life. About love. He shared with me what some “family” have said about me. And I shared with him the truth.

We talked about happiness and destiny. Straight talk. About the future. About legacy. But neither of us saw this coming.

I love you, bro. My heart is heavy.



I questioned God: “Why not one of these no-good so-and-so’s? Why D’Chaun?


Months later, I can’t lie, I’m still angry. Even if I know that God is sovereign, just and true. I’m not entirely sure why I’m having so much difficulty dealing with D’Chaun’s death.

Maybe it is the compound deaths. The fact that he was the third male cousin (Arty, 63, Michael, 59, and D’Chaun) that I lost last year.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that D’Chaun’s grandmother, my Aunt Scopie, also died in 2021. That it was the year I lost friends and brothers and still am pelted with the too frequent announcement of death and sickness all around.

A few years before D’Chaun’s death, it was Grandpa. Months earlier, it was Darius’, D’Chaun’s older brother, killed tragically in an automobile crash in Chicago. And before that, I had eulogized my mom and dad, almost exactly two years apart.

I was aware that D’Chaun was seriously ill but never serious enough, to my knowledge. I never imagined that he might not be there when I returned from Ghana, let alone less than a month after I had departed.

We were close, drawn to the intimacy of shared conversations between Black men who respect each other, drawn by more than just our familial connection of shared blood, but by longstanding fatherhood issues we both suffered as sons, and by our quest for wholeness.

By our desire to be better fathers, better men. And by our gift and craft for storytelling — mine through words, his through music and the beats he spit out on his keyboard and soundboard with fluency and incredible range.

We had shared numerous conversations — over cigars, the phone, during recording sessions. Shared numerous in-boxed conversations on Facebook.

We talked about life. About love. About women. About our children. About music. Family betrayal. Health and wellness. About redeeming the time.

We collaborated on a couple of projects. D’Chaun produced music for two of my convergence journalism student projects at Roosevelt University and also set music to a spoken word piece I delivered on “Chi-Raq” at City Club Chicago on the raging toll of murder in the city. He urged me to record an EP of my writings, poetry and spoken word, saying that my work was “dope,” as in “bad,” as in good.

We sometimes laughed hard about the vernacular gap caused by our age difference — 25 years. But it was not a barrier for brotherhood or friendship between an old-school “cat” and a young’un who held mutual respect and admiration for each other.

D’ Chaun was “dope.” A real ride or die. A protector. Provider and producer. A hustler in the sense of leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of the dream, and never ever giving up.

And he was the epitome of life. A husband and father of three sons — Denim Beats, 6, Maverick Knox Cornell and Gianni Malon Amani, 5. Maverick was just 16 months old when their father departed this life.

Gone at 36.

Maybe that’s what cuts so deeply.

Like D’Chaun, I have three sons. They’re all grown now — 43, 41 and 20. I used to pray, “Lord, please allow me to be here to raise my boys.”

God granted my earnest prayer stirred from my deepest fear that I might not live long enough to protect my boys until they could protect themselves. And I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to guide, counsel and rear my three boys, to steer them clear of some social landmines that claim many Black young men and to partake of the gift and priceless moments shared between fathers and sons. I was granted the wish of being able to give my sons the greatest gift a father can give. Not our presents but our presence.

D’Chaun and his boys, notwithstanding memories already sown, will not have the same opportunity.

That is hard to fathom. And it breaks my heart, even as I imagine ways in which other men in our family might seek in ways to pick up the mantle of fatherhood and mentoring to ensure that D’Chaun’s boys are covered by paternal love and protection, especially by men who knew and loved their father and knew his love for his sons.

We must find a way to keep that part of D’Chaun’s dream alive.

William D’Chaun Lockhart with his son Denim.

One Day…

D’Chaun dreamed of long life. Of continuing to make music as a producer; of making melodies with his sons at his feet while he did what came natural to him whenever he was in front of a keyboard, a mixer and a mic. Whenever he was flashing that boyish, innocent smile and the twinkle in his eyes that was always filled with vibrance and hope and a future.

Seeking to improve his craft, he had gone back to school and graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art. He worked with a variety of artists and had dropped his own first release. I remember how excited he was at the time.

Time. It is not on our side. It is fleeting like the wind. Ungraspable, except for the moments we inhale and share with others and that become cemented into our psyches and souls for eternity. Except eternity often arrives too quickly and with stinging, sometimes agonizing, permanence.

I had been thinking about D’Chaun and tried to reach him by phone on Dec. 13, at 8:27 a.m. I tried again to no avail about the same time on Dec. 14, then called his mother to tell her that I had been trying to reach him.

She explained that sometimes D’Chaun’s illness kept him up late at night, that he was likely asleep when I called and was sure he would get back to me.

The next day I in-boxed him a link to a short video I had recently completed using one of his beats as background music.

“Tried to call you twice from Ghana, cuz. Love you, man. Keep the faith,” I wrote.

He wrote back, “Love you cuz. Glad to know you made it,” he wrote, referring to the video. “Faith… it’s how I’m holding on.”

Me too, cuz. Me too, especially this Easter.

I am holding onto my faith that by the blood and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I will see you again one day and that maybe, just maybe, I will understand better in that sweet bye and bye.

But today I sit on the other side of the Atlantic, on an imperfect Easter Sunday, the ocean breeze washing over my mind and yet still unable to soothe my soul that hurts over losing you. I really miss you, man. Love, JWes.


William D’Chaun Lockhart
Collaborations between cousins William D’Chaun Lockhart and John W. Fountain: