The 27-year-old insisted on going to work to ensure elderly shoppers get their necessary supplies.
Leilani Jordan had every reason to stay safely at home when America was hit by the pandemic. Her mother, Zenobia Shepherd, had tried explaining the risks of going to work during the crisis and the danger Jordan would be putting herself in if she showed up to her job as a clerk at a Maryland grocery store. However, the 27-year-old insisted on going to work. She was worried about the elderly as panic shoppers had cleared out necessities from shelves in early to mid-March, leaving next to nothing for senior citizens. Jordan wanted to make sure they got their necessary supplies even if it meant putting herself in harm's way.
As a worker with cerebral palsy, Jordan had challenges of her own. Yet, she volunteered to take the early shift at the Giant supermarket in Largo where she worked part-time because no one else would. Since the mornings were set aside for the store's elderly customers, she knew someone had to be there to help them find the things they need and stock up on the essentials. "It's just crazy here at work ... but somebody's got to do it. I've got to help the older people," Jordan said, according to Shepherd.
Speaking to CNN, Shepherd said: "She was doing everything for them: Helping them put their groceries in their walkers, to helping them get into lifts." Her daughter’s desire to help others was overpowering, she told The Washington Post. "She said, 'Mommy, I'm going to work because no one else is going to help the senior citizens get their groceries.' She only stopped going to work when she could no longer breathe," the grieving mother lamented.
“She said, 'Mommy, I’m going to work because no one else is going to help the senior citizens get their groceries.” RIP Leilani Jordan, a 27-year-old Giant worker who passed away of the coronavirus last week https://t.co/qrshtA8BQu— Te-Ping Chen (@tepingchen) April 6, 2020
Jordan tested positive for the novel coronavirus in late March. She was admitted to the hospital and placed on a ventilator when her condition deteriorated in the following days. She died a few hours later, on Wednesday, last week. Shepherd held Jordan in her final moments and as she watched the EKG monitor flatline and overheard the doctors pronounce her dead, the devastated mother whispered a heartbreaking farewell into her daughter’s thick, curly braids. "I love you. Mommy loves you. Angel loves you," Shepherd said, referring to Jordan's service dog. "I will miss you. Be strong."
Ever since, Shepherd has lived on memories of her beloved daughter, whom she called "Butterfly" for Jordan’s love of butterflies. Memories of her daughter's love for singing, going to church, her job, and above all—helping people. She keeps hearing the sound of her daughter’s laughter, Shepherd said. "It was my baby!" the devastated mother lamented during a recent interview. "All she wanted to do was just help people."
Jordan's death hit her family harder when they realized that she'd secretly left them a goodbye video. Her stepfather, Charles, was at home going through her things after her death when he realized that she'd removed the password of her phone. He found a video with a heart-wrenching video message from her in it. "She made a video saying goodbye to all us, and wished everybody the best," he said. "She told us bye; her sisters, (and her service dog) Angel, bye; and all her friends. She told them, you know, 'See you on the other side.'"
Rest in peace Leilani Jordan, a black grocery clerk with cerebral palsy who kept working during the #coronavirus pandemic to help seniors. https://t.co/akIMuZasb2— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) April 8, 2020
Despite current circumstances, Shepherd is determined to give her daughter a proper send-off. She's currently trying to corral Jordan's loved ones and gather them at the family home in Upper Marlboro for a funeral. She's also trying to find a mortician and a cemetery that'll accept her daughter's body. "My butterfly deserves to go home like a warrior," she said, "a woman warrior that fought for doing the right thing." Shepherd has set up a GoFundMe to help cover the expenses of the funeral—which although likely to be substantial—she is determined to pay.
WAR ON THE VIRUS: @mattgutmanABC reports on the toll of the coronavirus not only on health care workers but on other essential employees, including Leilani Jordan, a 27-year-old Maryland grocery store employee who died after becoming infected. https://t.co/45ScCP4arl pic.twitter.com/GhfMQzFPyD— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) April 8, 2020