In her son’s final hours, Katie O’Neal read 8-year-old Hawk’s favorite book, “You Are My Work Of Art.”
Fitting for O’Neal as an art teacher, the book has a cartoon version of Mary Cassatt’s “Mother and Child” painting that resembled Katie and Hawk, who would help flip the pages.
On the opposite page from the “Mother and Child” painting, the book reads:
“We are the Mother and Child
Together shall we stay.
My love is yours forever,
And grows and grows each day.”
“It just suits us very well even to the very end,” O’Neal said.
Hawk Harrison died Friday, Aug. 13. The Gillsville boy suffered spontaneous brain hemorrhaging at 3 weeks old and experienced frequent seizures. O’Neal previously told The Times doctors gave the family roughly a 2 percent chance that he “would ever be ‘normal’” and did not expect him to live.
Since 2015, The Times has profiled Hawk, his medical journey and his mother’s pursuit of treatment methods since it became legal to possess and administer cannabis oil in Georgia.
O’Neal said the cannabis oil limited the frequency and intensity of her son’s seizures, helped him fall asleep, increased appetite and lessened his nausea.
O’Neal called her son the sweetest, strongest man she’s ever known.
“With all the things that were terrible about his life, he never showed any attitude or frustration or sadness,” she said. “He never stopped trying to be stronger and happier. You could just hold him and he would just calm your whole everything. It was just like inhaling a drug — like a love drug.”
Just to be in his presence was to feel his radiant happiness and peace, O’Neal said.
“Not to be blasphemous at all, but he was what I feel like is the closest thing that a human could ever be to Jesus,” she said. “He was just so pure. He embodied love.”
Hawk developed pancreatitis about a year ago, which led to multiple difficult hospital stays.
“Since then, we have noticed that he just did not ever rebound back to where he had formerly been,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal said she felt the turning point was when Hawk suffered a broken leg, which was “too much for his body.”
The family chronicled Hawk’s journey on social media, Do It For Hawk, which has more than 250,000 people following the page on Facebook.
On the page, the family announced his death by saying:
“He’s free. No more suffering. No more seizures. It was time.”
After the initial shock, came the celebration of Hawk’s life and support from the community that has wrapped around Hawk’s family.
“It’s really just been the biggest blessing,” O’Neal said. “I can’t imagine his story without all those people.”
In her continued advocacy for families seeking to use cannabis oil, O’Neal said she would like to see easier access and more available information. She said families often come to her “embarrassed to ask, don’t know who to turn to (and) feel shame” inquiring whether it will help their loved one.
O’Neal said the family plans to donate Hawk’s therapy equipment to Tender Ones Therapy Services, where Hawk went his whole life.
In lieu of flowers, O’Neal has asked for people to donate to a fundraising account they used to create a college fund for Hawk’s younger brothers, 3-year-old Lake and 6-month-old Ari, “so that he can take care of them like a big brother does.”
Donations can be made to P.O. Box 907773, Gainesville, GA 30501.
“He couldn’t do that in a typical way that a big brother takes care of the little ones, but this would be a way that he can and they’ll remember him and have something that he could pass on to them,” she said.
Funeral services are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in the Memorial Park Funeral Home Riverside Chapel.