Like many 6-year-olds, Leland Shoemake loved getting dirty. He also loved history, Steven Spielberg, and Adam Sandler. But “the one thing he loved most was playing in the dirt,” his mother, Amber Shoemake, writes on Facebook. “I never imagined that would be the thing that would take him from me.”
After a month-long battle with an infection from a brain amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris—which is found in dirt and can enter the body through wounds or the mouth, reports WSB-TV—Leland died at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Friday.
Heartbroken and grieving, his parents left the hospital for home “to get him clothes to be buried in,” writes Amber Shoemake. Sitting on a table in their living room was Leland’s final goodbye.
“Still with you. Thank you Mom & Dad. Love,” the handwritten note reads. “We were in shock and broke down as soon as we saw it,” Amber Shoemake tells ABC News. “We have no idea when he wrote it but you can tell he was always a special child,” she continues on Facebook.
“He was amazing in life and still is after his passing. He touched everyone he met and we are amazed at how many lives he’s touched since he left us.” She adds, “We will love you forever Leland.” A GoFundMe page set up for the family has raised $13,500 as of this writing.