ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A local mother has turned her pain into purpose after losing her son.

The mother is taking action to make sure that people feel more comfortable in their skin. It is the reason many consider her a remarkable woman.

“Its like losing a limb or a piece of you or a part of your heart or something,” said Phyllis Gallisath, co-founder, president and executive director of The Liam Foundation.

Liam Burdick’s last words took months to craft, left behind in the form of a journal, highlighting his pain in sketches, quotes and notes to his mom Phyllis.

“Your children aren’t supposed to die before you,” Gallisath said. “As a mother, you’re not supposed to live without your children.”

Liam died by suicide, three years after becoming the first student at Harlem High School to come out as transgender. A teenager, advocating for his peers, all while trying to be comfortable in his own skin.

“There’s a lot of people who didn’t understand and that didn’t care to either, but I think that’s what’s important about the work that we do is that we’re continuing to help those situations,” Gallisath said.

Gallisath has turned her pain into purpose.

“We have to be willing to learn about people who aren’t like us,” she said.

She started a foundation in her son’s name; “The Liam Foundation.” It serves hundreds of people and has helped dozens transition emotionally, physically and financially by paying the fee associated with a legal name change.

Lavon Moses is forever grateful for the life changing moment.

“It meant more than anything, it’s something I’ve wanted for so long and never thought that I would be able to achieve,” Moses said.

“It’s taking their identity and making it valid and making it so that ‘this is my legal name and you don’t get to use a different name because this is who I am,'” Gallisath added.

Gallisath helps with everything, from transportation to doctors appointments to mentorship. It is a fight for inclusion she wishes she would battle with her son by her side.

“I just wish that he could have seen how much progress has been made,” she said.

Those emotions felt, as she pens through his journal, a final message that is anything but final, as Liam protects some that he never had a chance to meet.

“It’s just really difficult,” Gallisath said.

Liam and Gallisath worked together to bring a PFLAG chapter to Rockford. She also just revamped The Liam Foundation website to reach out to more people.

If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.