It is a painful reality that parents occasionally lose their children to unfortunate mishaps, cancer treatments, or other illnesses.
Before reading this story about 6-year-old Leland Shoemake, grab some tissues because it will take you on an emotional journey.
Leland Shoemake, 6, was a typical Georgia boy from Williamson. Those who knew him will never forget his contagious joy, keen intellect, and creative energy.
“By the time he was a year old, he was familiar with his ABCs, numbers, colors, shapes, and 20 sight words. We adored the fact that he was our little nerd. He enjoyed learning and attending school.”
His mother, Amber Shoemake, said on social media that he wanted documentaries, the history channel, the weather channel, and anything historical.
If things had turned out differently, we might never have heard of him; nevertheless, Leland’s fate had other ideas.
Leland unexpectedly became ill in 2015 and was quickly rushed to the hospital. The physicians soon discovered that he had a brain infection from the amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris due to his rapidly deteriorating health. Leland may have come into contact with the germs while playing outside. However, no one was entirely sure how he contracted it.
Playing in the dirt was “the one thing he loved most,” Mrs. Shoemake stated in her Facebook post. She continued:
“I never imagined that would be the thing that would take him away from me.”
At first, doctors were baffled by Leland’s sickness and thought meningitis might be to blame. Further examination revealed that he was afflicted with an amebic infection in his brain.
On the family’s GoFundMe page, his mother said, “He has had horrible 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 fought bravely, but on September 25, 2015, he lost the battle.
Waves of grief swept over his parents as they went home from the hospital, where they had said their final goodbyes to their darling kid. However, despite their intense sorrow, they couldn’t help but notice something on the family’s living room table.
Leland, beloved for his sweet custom of leaving messages and drawings for his parents, had left one last sentimental note.
The message said, “Still with you… Thank you, parents. Love.’ Additionally, he drew a red heart with the words “mom,” “dad,” and “love” inside it.
The meaning and solace it must have provided the mourning parents during such a terrible period are almost beyond comprehension. Amid their tragic loss, Leland’s note offered a glimmer of comfort as a bittersweet reminder of their shared love and connection.
His mother commented, “We had no idea when he wrote it, but you can tell he was always a special child.”
The full text of the account from The Leland Shoemake Foundation is provided below for your convenience:
“My name is Amber.
I tried to keep Leland safe and was overly protective of him. Playing in the dirt was his only favorite activity. I never thought that would be what separated me from him. He was my entire universe. He gave birth to me and made me a mother. We fought so arduously to get him. He was born screaming and healthy despite being premature. From the start, he was intelligent. By the time he was a year old, he was already familiar with his ABCs, numbers, colors, shapes, and 20 sight words. We adored the fact that he was our little nerd. He enjoyed learning and attending school.
He adored documentaries, the history channel, the weather channel, and everything historical. He liked learning about topics like WWII and ships like the Titanic. He was flawless. Jaws was a favorite film of his. He favored Steven Spielberg as a director. And Adam Sandler was his famous actor. He had a great love for his brother and his family. He brought life to every gathering. His smile could illuminate a metropolis. He was the most intelligent, thoughtful, and kind youngster ever.”
“He had a chance to accomplish great things in this world. Without Leland, we wouldn’t have many friends in this county. He was kind to everyone and never met a stranger. This has been my only fear, and it came true. Never should a parent have to bury their child. I’ve always maintained that I hope to go first because I don’t think I’m strong enough to deal with this.”
“I still don’t believe it to be real.”
“I’m sitting here thinking back to things he’d say and movie quotations he’d recite. like “check ya later” in the movie, puzzled and bewildered. Alternatively, Jaws’ “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” line. Or any of the countless things he would quote from Billy Madison.”
“He was the center of our family and the source of our happiness.
I am counting down the minutes until I can see his adorable face and hear his lovely voice again.
This is the note we discovered from him on the coffee table in the living room when Tim and I returned home for the first time to retrieve his clothes to be buried in. Although we don’t know when he wrote it, it is evident that he was a remarkable kid from the start.”
The most terrible event a parent can go through is burying their child. We aim to keep telling Leland’s story and ensure he is never forgotten despite the unimaginable agony.
We should all enjoy each day since we never know when circumstances may abruptly change. Let’s remember him for the great little guy he was.