The mother who found a note from her 6-year-old son that said “I’m still with you” after his tragic death says she’s overwhelmed by the support she has received from people touched by her son’s story.
“I knew he was special and everyone loved him but I never imagined he would touch so many people,” Amber Shoemake told PEOPLE.
Leland, from Williamson, Georgia, died Friday after undergoing weeks of treatment for a brain infection caused by the free-living amoeba Balamuthia mandrillaris.
When Amber and her husband Tim returned home for the first time to get clothes for Leland’s funeral, they found a note their son had written for them on a table in the living room.
“I heard him immediately break down crying and he came into Leland’s room and showed me it,” Amber wrote to PEOPLE in an email. “To say I lost it is an understatement. We cried together for the longest time.”
Amber shared a photo of the note along with an emotional tribute to her son on the Facebook page, where thousands followed his story. “We have no idea when he wrote it but you can tell he was always a special child. We will love you forever Leland,” Amber wrote in the post on Monday.
“I posted that the morning before his funeral as a tribute to my awesome little boy,” Amber explained. “The support that we have gotten from not only our community but from people around the world is overwhelming.”
Amber said Leland often left notes around the house to make his parents smile.
“He always wrote us notes and drew us pictures,” she said. “He loved to draw sharks, tornadoes, volcanoes, ships, tsunamis, flowers for me and funny things for his dad. He drew pictures for everyone. And always wrote the sweetest notes.”
“He taught me more than anyone ever could have,” she continued. “How to forgive and how to love – he was so genuine in everything he did and I only aspire to be as forgiving as he was.”
Adding, “He never met a stranger. We were pretty closed people before we had Leland. He opened us up.”
Thanks to Leland’s legacy of openness, Amber, Tim and their youngest child Logan face the tragedy with the support of their community – and thousands online.
“We are devastated and have no idea how to move on,” she said.
“Our son Logan keeps us going and the support from our community has been tremendous,” she added. “I think without those two things we would have been more lost than we already are.”