Losing D’Chaun, and learning not to take life for granted

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

These feelings find – swarm, overshadow me – despite my corner here in this West African paradise as the ocean waves crash, and the wind blows through the branches of coconut and palm trees.

I stand on 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 on Dec. 21, at 12:26 pm (Ghana time) 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. I couldn’t accept that my cousin William D’Chaun Lockhart, who was more like a close nephew or a son, was dead at 36. He was a musical spirit whose eyes and cheeks filled with joy whenever he was mixing beats or playing keyboard .

COVID-19 was not the culprit but a rare disease he had been battling for some time.

I had seen D’Chaun weeks before leaving in November for my Fulbright scholarship to Ghana, as I tried to see those most important to me, conscious that life – and death – are what happen 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: “death and taxes.”

The fact that I was not able to be there for D’Chaun’s services, to whisper final words above his grave or lay flowers perhaps worsens my pain, prevents any sense of closure.

Why?

I was angry. So damn angry in the days and weeks that passed.

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

“Damn!”

Months later, I’m still angry. Even if I know that God is sovereign.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m having so much difficulty coping. Maybe it is the compound deaths. That D’Chaun was the third male cousin (Arty, 63, Michael, 59, and D’Chaun) lost last year.

Maybe it’s because D’Chaun’s grandmother, my Aunt Scopie, died in 2021. That 2021 was the year I lost countless friends and brothers.

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

I never imagined that D’Chaun might not be there when I returned from Ghana, let alone less than a month after I departed.

“Dope”

We were close, drawn together by music, by our mutual respect and desire to be better fathers, better men.

We shared numerous conversations – over cigars, the phone, during recording sessions and our collaborations. We talked about life, love, women, children, music. Family betrayal. About redeeming the time.

We sometimes laughed hard about the vernacular language gap caused by our age difference – 25 years. But it was not a barrier for brotherhood and friendship between an old-school “cat” and a young’un with nothing except love and admiration between us.

D ‘Chaun was “dope.” A protector. Provider and producer. And he was the epitome of life. A husband (Tierra Leachman-Lockhart); father of three sons, Denim, 6, Maverick, 1, and Gianni, 5.

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 answered my prayers, allowing me to give my sons the greatest gift a father can ever give. Not our presents but our presence.

D’Chaun and his boys won’t have that chance.

Maybe that’s why anger finds me, even amid this oceanfront paradise: To keep me from crying.

#Justiceforjelaniday

Follow John Fountain’s journey in Ghana at:www.hearafricacalling.com



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