A six-year-old went before he had a life, his unexpected death left his family heartbroken. Never did they think his love for playing outdoors would cause his death. The little boy was diagnosed with a rare illness and despite trying to fight it, it took his life. His parents weren’t ready to say goodbye and hoped for more days of innocent play and laughter.
When death finally came knocking at their doors, the worrying parents eventually ended up being completely heartbroken. When they could not find anything to hold on, they took home a farewell letter sent to them by the very son they had just lost. This is their story.
The boy began getting ill with a meningococcal infection.
Leland was a normal six-year-old from Georgia with big dreams and who loved to play outside in the mud with his best friends. When the doctors diagnosed him, they originally suspected that he had meningitis and treated him accordingly. Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. It can be deadly and requires immediate medical attention. However, most people survive it and only about 10% don’t.
Leland’s parents, Amber and Tim, immediately set up a Facebook page called Prayers for Leland, as well as a GoFundMe page to help with medical bills. The GoFundMe page, which also ended up being used for the funeral, raised more than $26,00.
Shortly After, A Rare Serious Infection Was Discovered
Not long after being hospitalized, Lelan started feeling worse. The doctors ran some more tests and made a devastating discovery. Leland actually suffered from something more serious than Meningitis. He had a serious infection known as “granulomatous amebic encephalitis” (GAE), This affected his brain and spinal cord. The treatment for it wasn’t as easy and it was much more painful.
While being treated, his mom ached as she watched him struggle with the treatment: “He has several teams of multiple doctors working with him and treating him. He’s on 10 different medications and they all have terrible side effects.” It was tough to balance the side effects of medications with the symptoms of the illness as she explains: “he has had bad headaches, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and now his eyes are crossed and he can’t focus on anything without his eyes moving and seeing double.”
Still, the family had hope. They thought he could still survive it. They asked for help from their community: “The thing we ask for most is prayers for fast healing, smart doctors, less pain, and no long-term effects.”
The Boy Want To Reassure His Parents
While Leland was hospitalized at Children’s Healthcare, his parents, Tim and Amber never left their son’s side. The treatment for his condition was still relatively new, and had not yet been perfected. Then, the worst happened…
Leland lost his battle and couldn’t survive his illness, putting an end to his suffering. His parents went back home to pick out clothing for his burial. The last thing they expected was that Leland had left them a goodbye note in the living room, as if he knew that he wouldn’t be coming back.
The note said: “Still with you. Thank you Mom + Dad… Love…” Leland signed off the note two little words that appear to say “Good day.” The note was bright and decorated with a red heart. Despite only being six, it was almost like Leland knew ahead of time that his parents would need some sort of sign to help them cope with his passing, and he wanted them to be okay without him.
“We have no idea when he wrote it but you can tell he was always a special child,” his mother wrote.
The Worst Pain A Mother Could Endure
Even with the note, Leland’s family was left with unbearable pain, and a void created by his absence that they couldn’t imagine being able to live without. This is every parent’s worst nightmare. It is excruciating to watch your child suffer, and be completely helpless to the person you thought you needed to protect with your own life. Amber expressed her grief to her community writing:
“This is Amber. I was overprotective 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 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. He never met a stranger and he loved everyone. My whole life this has been my only fear and it came true. No one should ever have to bury a child. I always said I hope it’s me that goes first bc I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle something like this. It still doesn’t seem real to me. ”
He Was A Kid Like Any Other
Leland’s obituary described him as a gifted child who “enjoyed school, Minecraft, history, CSX diesel trains, Legos, sharks, ships like the Titanic, and playing baseball.” He really was just like any other kid. He still was full of innocence and passion for life. His vision was not yet tainted by society’s conditioning and expectations. He loved to watch Tom And Jerry and was just beginning to learn the basics in school.
“He was smart from day one. He knew his ABC’s, numbers, colors, shapes, and 20 sight words by the time he was a year old. He was our little nerd and we loved that about him. He loved school and loved to learn. He loved the history channel, the weather channel, documentaries, and anything about history. He loved ships like the titanic and learning about things like WWII. He was perfect. His favorite movie was jaws. His favorite director was Steven Spielberg. And his favorite actor was Adam Sandler. 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. ‘It still doesn’t seem real to me, ” describes his mom.
Leland Touched Many Lives
Leland’s story has gone viral because of its purity and resonating heartbreak. Leland’s note to his family touched many, especially those who lost someone dear to them and wish they could have gotten just one more goodbye, and something to remember their loved one by.
In the days since his letter was first discovered, Amber’s post has received thousands of comments, prayers, messages of comfort, and condolences. The page has been converted from a prayer page for his recovery to “The Leland Shoemake Foundation” a non profit foundation in his honor. The page is still active and Leland’s family keeps his memory alive by frequently sharing pictures that celebrate the short but full life he lived.
Leland Continues To Live On In Our Hearts And Memories
Many tried to support Leland’s parents, sharing their own struggles: He’ll be with you whenever you want him to,” writes Wilma T. on Facebook. “You can talk to him and he’ll hear you, and sometimes maybe in dreams, you will hear him.” Another writes: “So sorry for your loss. We lost our son when he was only 15 “days old. Can’t begin to imagine your pain.”
As for his mom, she hopes for a day where she can hug him tightly again: ” I count the days until I can see his sweet face again and hear that beautiful voice. . We will love you forever Leland. Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”