Do you remember what it felt like the first time you lost someone you love? Chances are, you were confused, scared, hurt, and lonely. For many people, these painful emotions never completely go away. But, what if you had something that would make it all hurt a little less?
That’s what happened to Tim and Amber Shoemake of Pike County, Georgia. After losing their son, Leland, to a rare brain infection, they discovered a touching letter from him. Keep reading to learn more of their simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming story — just wait until you see what’s on slide 2!
#12 Leland Shoemake
Meet Leland Shoemake. This bright, smiling six-year-old boy from Georgia seemed to have everything going for him. He lived a happy life with his parents, Tim and Amber, and his little brother. He lived an active and exciting life until everything turned upside down. But, before we get into that, let’s learn a bit more about this special little guy!
#11 “A Little Nerd”
Leland’s mother called him her “little nerd” because of his insatiable appetite for knowledge. He was constantly watching documentaries on The History Channel and The Weather Channel, and loved reading books for fun. It’s clear that this little boy really loved life — and life loved him right back!
#10 Always Playing
Leland absolutely LOVED playing outside. His friends and family said it was rare to see him clean — he was always covered in mud, sweat, and grass stains! His specialty was climbing trees. He never minded when he took a tumble into the dirt! Unfortunately, his love for the outdoors may have been the cause of his demise.
#9 A Stomach Bug
One day, Leland got sick with a severe stomach bug. His mom treated him with lots of fluids and rest, and he was thankfully back to his old self after only a few days! This lasted for a little bit, but Tim and Amber had their doubts. There’s definitely something to be said for a mother’s instinct!
#8 Something’s Not Right
Even though Leland was no longer throwing up, his parents had a gut feeling that something wasn’t “right.” He was constantly tired, sometimes seemed a bit confused about where he was and what he was supposed to be doing, and couldn’t stop losing weight. These were pretty scary symptoms for the Shoemake family!
#7 A Trip To The Hospital
Because Leland was so sick, his mom and dad took him to their local emergency room. He was admitted and treated for meningitis, and was actually discharged home a few days later. He even seemed to get better for awhile! Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the family’s struggles…
#6 Back To The Hospital
After spending a few days at home, Leland’s condition rapidly declined. Tim and Amber loaded him in their car and headed to the hospital once again. It was at Henrietta Egleston Hospital for Children where he was diagnosed with Balamuthia Mandrillaris, a rare type of brain infection that can be caused by exposure to infected dirt. The Shoemake family held onto hope, but things were looking more grim by the day.
#5 Getting Sicker
After running some tests to confirm Leland’s diagnosis of Balamuthia Mandrillaris, the little boy underwent extensive treatment. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this type of brain infection, so much of the doctor’s care focused on keeping him comfortable. Before too long, he slipped into a coma.
#4 Holding Onto Memories
As Leland got sicker and sicker, it became clear that he was never going to get better. So, Tim and Amber held on even tighter to the memories they had with him. Tim said, “It’s so hard to prepare for something inevitable like that.” We’re sure that must be true.
#3 A Life Cut Short
On September 25, 2015, Leland Shoemake lost his battle. He had been bravely battling his brain infection for almost a month, but his illness ended up being stronger than he was. His parents were absolutely heartbroken, but what they found next would give them a bit of the comfort they needed to keep going…
#2 “Absolutely Speechless”
Only a few hours after Leland’s tragic death, Tim and Amber returned to their home to pick out an outfit for him to be buried in. Amber said that she was “absolutely speechless” to find this note from Leland. It said, “Still with you. Love you, mom and dad. Good luck.”
#1 Rest In Peace
Though Leland’s little life was cut short, his parents will always have his drawing as a reminder of the impact he had on their family. Though they can’t get their smiling boy back, they can hold on to his precious memory. At the end of the day, that’s a pretty special gift.
The Shoemake family was lucky enough to be blessed with one final message from Leland. Unfortunately, most people aren’t this lucky. So, their story serves as an excellent reminder to treasure those you love and hold them close while they’re still in your life. No one likes feeling grief, but knowing that you made the most of your time with someone will always help ease the pain.
If you liked this article, be sure to like it, share it, comment, and sent it to anyone you know who may just need a little something to warm their heart!