bouquet of white and purple flowers on top of a white casket
Jade Small
Jade Small
December 24, 2023 ·  4 min read

Grieving Parents Preparing for Son’s Funeral Find Harrowing Note He Left Them in the Living Room

A Secret Life of Mom Highlight Story: Sometimes there are stories that can help raise and maintain awareness of important subjects. That’s why we scour the archives and bring some of them back to help keep parents in the know. They may be touching, and even make you shed a tear, but the health and wellbeing of our children are what we value most.

Losing a child is a fear most parents have. No mother or father should have to bury their son or daughter, especially when so young. For this young boy, his parents had to accept the day would come where they would have to say goodbye, but nothing prepared them for the remembering he left behind for them to find. Grab some tissues because this story will make you cry…

Six-year-old Leland Shoemake in a photo on the Facebook page his parents set up after he fell ill to keep family and friends informed about how he was doing

In 2015, Little Leland Shoemake was just like any other boy his age, except that he was infected with an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris that infected his brain. Leland was admitted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital in Egleston, but after a few weeks, his little body gave up and he passed away.

Leland had in critical condition at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston due to Balamuthia infection

Read: My 19-year-old daughter died from Toxic Shock Syndrome. Here’s my plea to lawmakers.

The Note

Lelands parents, Tim and Amber Shoemake were devastated at the loss of their son. They had spent each day at his side while in hospital. Once the six-year-old had passed on, his parents returned home and found a note that their son had written before going to the hospital. This is what the note said. ‘Stil with you… Thank you mom and dad… Love.’ He also drew a red heart that contained three words: mom, dad, and love.

The 'goodbye' note written by little Leland and left on the family's living-room table.

In a post on Facebook, Amber described finding the precious note written by their son.

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!’

His mom went on to talk about how much she loved her son, and how he loved to play. She also spoke about how even though he’d had the best doctors and was on every medication imaginable, he still did not make it. At first doctors were baffled by his illness and initially suspected meningitis before confirming the amebic infection in his brain. 

The one thing he loved most was playing in the dirt,’ Mrs Shoemake wrote on her Facebook post. ‘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.’ 

The grieving mom added: ‘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.’ 

Read: Frightening image is a reminder to parents about avoiding blue swimwear for kids

What is Balamuthia?

You may be wondering how Leland got sick or what Balamuthia is, According to the CDC: [3]

Balamuthia amebas (single-celled living organisms) are thought to enter the body when soil containing Balamuthia comes in contact with skin wounds and cuts, or when dust containing Balamuthia is breathed into the lungs . Once inside the body, the amebas can then travel to the brain and cause granulomatous amebic encephalitis (GAE). GAE is a severe disease of the brain that is fatal in 90% of cases. It can take weeks to months to develop the first symptoms of Balamuthia GAE after initial exposure to the amebas.

Parasites – Balamuthia mandrillaris | Sources of Infection & Risk Factors – CDC
life cycle of Balamuthia mandrillaris.
Image Credit: CDC

Can You Prevent an Infection?

Currently according to the CDC, there is no certain way to prevent Balamuthia since it is unclear why certain people become infected while others do not. However according to Leland Shoemake Foundation, preventative measures to reduce the risk of coming into contact with Balamuthia mandrillaris, include [4]:

  • wearing gloves when handling dirt
  • wearing face masks around dirt and dust
  • keeping nose plugged when under water
  • keeping nose above water
  • using distilled water in humidifiers

While Balamuthia is considered rare with only 200 recorded infections since 1993, it suspected that true numbers are actually higher [3].

For more information Balamuthia visit the CDC website

Keep Reading: Parents warned over dangers of your children wearing winter coat inside cars


  1. Mother Finds Touching Note From 6-Year-Old Son Who Died of Amoeba Infection.ABC News. September 2015
  2. Parents find heartbreaking ‘goodbye’ note from their six-year-old son after he died from a rare brain infection.Daily Mail. September 2015
  3. “Parasites – Balamuthia mandrillaris – Granulomatous Amebic Encephalitis (GAE)” CDC. Sepetember 2019.
  4. “Awareness: LS Foundation.