Parents who lost a six-year-old boy discovered a note, written by their son shortly before he died, left out for them to find when they returned home. Leland Shoemake died Friday after a month-long battle with a rare infection, but at some point, the smiling first-grader – described as “perfect” by his grieving mother – made a courageous effort to leave behind a small piece of comfort, knowing he would soon pass away.
Writes People.com on Sept. 30: “The Atlanta, Georgia, 6-year-old contracted Balamuthia mandrillaris, a rare type of infection caused by a free-living ameba, and had been given an experimental drug by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though his condition steadily deteriorated.”
The Pike County boy contracted the rare but deadly infection, which causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Leland’s parents think he picked up the infection doing what all young boys do – playing outside in the dirt and mud.
Returning home to pick up some clothes for the heartbreaking task of burying their boy, Amber and Tim Shoemake found the note, written by Leland and left out for them on a table in the living room.
“Still with you,” it read, with ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ inside of a heart. “Thank you mom and dad. Love.” At the end, Leland wrote “good day,” which according to Amber, meant that Leland was telling them it was a good day, and that it will be ok.
“We were in shock and broke down as soon as we saw it. He was amazing in life and still is after his passing. He touched everyone he met and we are amazed at how many lives he’s touched since he left us,” Amber told ABC News. Leland’s parents said they have no idea when he wrote the note.
On a PrayersForLeland Facebook page, Amber wrote, in part:
This is Amber. This will be my only post on here for a while. I was over protective of Leland and tried my best to keep him safe. The one thing he loved most was playing in the dirt. I never imagined that would be the thing that would take him from me. He was my world. He made me a mother. We struggled so hard to have him. He was a preemie baby but came out screaming and healthy. He was smart from day one… He was our little nerd and we loved that about him…
He loved his brother and his family so much. He was the life of every party. His smile could light up a city. He was the smartest, most caring, loving little boy there ever was. He was taken from us too soon. He could have done great things in this world. We would only have a few friends in this county if it wasn’t for Leland…
No one should ever have to bury a child. I always said I hope it’s me that goes first because I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle something like this. It still doesn’t seem real to me. I find myself sitting here remembering things he would say and quotes from movies he would repeat… I count the days until I can see his sweet face again and hear that beautiful voice. When Tim and I came home for the first time to get him clothes to be buried in, this is the note we found from him on the table in the living room. We have no idea when he wrote it but you can tell he was always a special child. We will love you forever Leland. Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!
A GoFundMe page has since been set up to help defray the medical costs of the experimental treatment.