December 20, 2013 – March 1, 2021
Diagnosed: August 24, 2020
Written by Harrison’s Auntie, Tina Tavana
Harrison Dennis Lauleleioamoa Tavana passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by those who loved him most, on March 1, 2021, at the tender age of 7, following a 6-month battle with brain cancer. Harrison was born in Provo, Utah, on December 20, 2013, to parents DeeDee and Dennis Tavana.
All who knew Harrison loved him. He made friends everywhere he went. He had friends of all ages and would carry on a conversation for hours if you let him. His best friends were his family. He absolutely adored his mom; she was everything to him. She was his mommy, nurse, teacher, confidant, and so much more. His daddy was his hero. To him, daddy could do everything and fix anything. They shared a love for airplanes and travel. He also adored his sisters. His bond with each of them was unique, but he loved them all equally. They were his biggest cheerleaders. Kenna was his best friend and protector. Taytay was his entertainer, always dancing and singing to make him happy. Maddie, although younger, was his nurse and caretaker. She made sure Harrison had everything he needed. All three sisters adored their brother, and he adored them in return. Spending time with family was Harrison’s happy place.
Relationships and family were very important to Harrison. He brought both sides of his family together so he could see everyone, and he had a special bond with each of his grandparents. He enjoyed working in the yard and building things with his Papa John, and he cherished reading scriptures and learning about the gospel with Grandma Jeanette. He shared a love for making paper airplanes and also for math and science with Papa Gaugau, and he loved Mama Palagi because she always fed him and made sure he had all of his favorite snacks for his ride up to Salt Lake for his treatments.
Reading and learning were two of Harrison’s favorite things to do. As a first grader at Spring Creek Elementary, Harrison loved school and excelled in math. He wanted to be a scientist, an archaeologist or a paleontologist, and most recently a marine biologist. Harrison enjoyed dancing and always knew the latest dance moves. He was interested in his Polynesian heritage and would have been a great Polynesian dancer. Harrison was thrilled when his ward put on a luau for him and loved the special presentation he received from the Polynesian Cultural Center. He had a gift for learning languages and learned how to count in Samoan, Spanish, Japanese, and Maori as soon as he could talk! His cancer took away his ability to speak, so his mom taught him how to sign. In the end he kept signing the word “home” — he just wanted to go home to be with his family. We were grateful that he could come home before he left for his home in Heaven.
In his short life, he taught us resilience when faced with adversity. Harrison battled a very aggressive brain cancer with resilience and fortitude that inspired all who knew him and his story. He was our superhero, so brave and strong. His faith was absolutely inspiring. On bad days, he would reflect on the message of President Russell M. Nelson (from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) on the healing power of gratitude. He was grateful for so much. He was grateful for his family, ward, neighbors, friends, doctors, the temple, and prayer.
He prayed often and said lots of silent, sweet, honest, and sincere prayers. On especially hard days, he would ask his Heavenly Father to help him endure his pain.
Harrison will always be remembered for his big heart, beautiful smile, and great hair. His smile could light up a room. He smiled often and loved to make other people smile. He also had the most contagious laugh. He would tell jokes and refer to himself as Jester Harrison. He always had the best haircuts and was devastated when we had to cut his hair short for his treatments.
Our love for our sweet boy is eternal, as is our family. Our hearts are broken, but we find comfort in knowing that this separation is temporary. We look forward to the day we will see him again but know he is dancing, singing, riding his bike, telling jokes, and eating sushi with Aunty Chels (all while having amazing hair) and our other loved ones who have passed on.
Never to be forgotten, Harrison is survived by his parents, DeeDee and Dennis Tavana; his three sisters, Kennadee, Tatum, and Maddison; his grandparents, Jeanette and John Mataali’i and Fiapapalagi and Namulauulu Gaugau Tavana; plus aunts, uncles, and several cousins who all loved and adored him. We will miss him deeply.