The unfortunate truth is that sometimes, families endure the devastating loss of their young children due to tragic accidents, battles with cancer, or other illnesses. The following story, about a 6-year-old boy named Leland Shoemake, is certainly one that might require a few tissues—it’s an emotional journey.
Leland Shoemake was a typical 6-year-old from Williamson, Georgia. His radiant joy, keen intelligence, and inventive spirit had a profound impact on everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Leland’s mother, Amber Shoemake, shared on social media, “He knew his ABCs, 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.”
In another situation, Leland’s name might never have become widely known. However, destiny had other plans for him.
In 2015, Leland unexpectedly fell ill and was quickly hospitalized. His condition worsened rapidly, and doctors soon discovered he had a brain infection caused by the amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris. It remains unclear how Leland contracted the bacteria, but it is possible he encountered it while playing outside.
Mrs. Shoemake mentioned in her Facebook post, “The one thing he loved most was playing in the dirt.” She continued, “I never imagined that would be the thing that would take him from me.”
At first, medical experts were puzzled by Leland’s condition, initially suspecting meningitis. However, after more extensive investigation, they confirmed that he was suffering from an amoebic infection in his brain.
On the family’s GoFundMe page, his mother described his symptoms: “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.”
Leland bravely battled against the illness, but on September 25, 2015, he tragically lost his life.
After bidding their final farewells to their beloved son at the hospital, Leland’s parents returned home, engulfed by waves of sorrow. Amidst their profound grief, they noticed an object on their living room table.
Leland, who was known for his sweet habit of leaving notes and drawings for his parents, had left one last heartfelt message. The note read, “Stil (sic) with you… Thank you mom and dad… Love.” He also drew a red heart enclosing three words: mom, dad, and love.
One can only imagine the profound significance and consolation this note must have provided to Leland’s grieving parents during such a difficult time. It served as a poignant reminder of their shared love and connection, offering a small measure of comfort amidst their devastating loss.
“We have no idea when he wrote it but you can tell he was always a special child,” his mother said.
The full story from The Leland Shoemake Foundation is provided below for your convenience:
This is Amber. This will be my only post on here for awhile.
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 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.
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.
I find myself sitting here remembering things he would say and quotes from movies he would repeat. Like “check ya later” from dazed and confused. Or “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” from jaws. Or all the million things he used to say from Billy Madison.
He was the light of our life and the center of this family.
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!
Experiencing the loss of a child is undoubtedly the most heart-wrenching ordeal a parent can face. However, in the midst of this immeasurable pain, our hope is to keep sharing Leland’s story, ensuring his memory lives on.
We should remember him as the extraordinary young boy he was, and let his memory serve as a reminder for us all to value each day of our lives, as circumstances can change unexpectedly.