Sharon Hawkins, mother of Dakota Hawkins, who died at 15 years old after years of battling Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, shares her family’s part in the writing of a book detailing wishes fulfilled by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
By Sharon Hawkins
About two years ago, Make-A-Wish Foundation asked if my family and I would be willing to share our son and brother, Dakota Hawkins’, unique wish – a John Deere Gator all-terrain vehicle and the details of how his wish became a reality. For us, sharing Dakota’s wish means sharing a part of his heart and the spiritual journey that shaped it.
A few months passed and I was contacted by author Rachelle Sparks from San Diego, Calif. We began planning her trip to Arkansas to interview our family. Finally, we would get to meet the lady who was traveling all over the United States to interview not only our family, but seven other families whose child was also a recipient of a remarkable wish from the Make-A Wish Foundation. Mrs. Sparks would witness early on the amazing commonality these children share in their fearless ability to fight, inspire, and strengthen all of us while fighting a life-threatening disease.
On a Friday afternoon, Mrs. Sparks drove up after making the long flight from her California home. Our family greeted her outside where she returned the greetings with a handshake and a warm smile. I noticed instantly her eyes showed kindness, sympathy and respect. I would soon realize she not only was trustworthy to share our greatest joys and deepest pain but would witness her spirit of encouragement.
As we gathered at the dinner table to share a traditional Friday night meal that Henry had grilled, we held hands while Henry blessed the food and our time of sharing. After dinner, we invited our guest into the living room and got comfortable. With laptop in hand, Mrs. Sparks lead the way in attempting to capture the personality of the little boy we loved so much. About an hour had passed and it was obvious she was grasping Dakota’s personality, character, his incredible will to live and to fight, and his faith.
My greatest concern was Riley, whose pain was evident in his voice and on his face, yet often broken by laughter from a fond childhood memory he would recall. One example was all those John Wayne movies where they would dress the part, pretend, and film the scene where Riley (little brother) was the side-kick and Dakota always had to be the John Wayne, the last one standing. Riley had always chosen to handle his grief privately. I silently prayed the prayer I had uttered for months that this experience would be therapeutic. We had all come to a consensus that we wanted Dakota’s story in written form, and to continue to share his character as a testimony, but it was evident the pain would wear on all of us as we shared.
Before we knew it, it was midnight and we were all spent emotionally and physically. Henry and Riley bid us goodnight and Mrs. Sparks and I had quiet conversation until the wee hours of morning. I even shared a part of my personal endeavor with her about the chapters I had penned over the years and set aside. She listened attentively, gave me some good advice, and encouraged me to pick up where I had left off.
In the year following our interview, we conversed many times on the phone refining the story, confirming dates, fine-tuning details, while I attempted to teach a city girl how to understand the life of a deer hunter, the purpose of a deer stand, crossing creeks in an ATV, and the passion our son had for nature. We exchanged e-mails regularly and the editing process took over a year and often became emotionally taxing. In August of last year, the collection of stories went to the publisher at Ben Bella Books in Dallas, Texas … having captured successfully Dakota’s spirit. The book, Once Upon A Wish, debuted in bookstores in early March of this year.
The book can be purchased locally at Spiritual Gifts in Cabot, in all bookstores where books are sold, download on Kindle, or on Amazon at http://www.onceuponawishbook.com/