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‘Butterfly’ and ‘woman warrior’: Mother mourns Leilani Jordan, who died of coronavirus at 27

Leilani Margurite Jordan  died of coronavirus-related health complications. She was 27. (Zenobia Shepherd)
Leilani Margurite Jordan died of coronavirus-related health complications. She was 27. (Zenobia Shepherd)

Leilani Margurite Jordan was getting worried.

No one was showing up for the early shift at the Giant supermarket in Largo where she worked part time. Because of the novel coronavirus, the morning was now set aside for the store’s elderly customers: the women who could barely walk on their own, who never knew where things were, whom she delighted in guiding to the milk or the store bathroom.

Jordan’s mother, Zenobia Shepherd, tried to explain the risks of working. But she said Jordan, who had a disability that caused “cognitive delays,” impaired her vision and left her reliant on a service dog, probably did not fully understand the potential dangers of the coronavirus.

And her daughter’s desire to help others, Shepherd said, was overpowering.

“She said, ‘Mommy, I’m going to work because no one else is going to help the senior citizens get their groceries,’ ” Shepherd said. “She only stopped going to work when she could no longer breathe.”

After experiencing telltale symptoms of the coronavirus, Jordan took a test and received positive results in late March. She was admitted to the hospital and placed on a ventilator a few days later, her mother said. She died a few hours after that, on Wednesday.

She was 27.

Coronavirus in the DMV: What you need to know

Shepherd held Jordan — whom she called “Butterfly,” for her daughter’s love of butterflies — as she died. As she watched the EKG monitor flatline and overheard the doctors pronounce Jordan brain dead, Shepherd whispered words into her daughter’s thick, curly braids.

“I love you. Mommy loves you. Angel loves you,” Shepherd said, referring to the service dog. “I will miss you. Be strong.”

In the days since, Shepherd has lived on memories: How much Jordan loved going to church. How much Jordan loved singing. How much Jordan loved her job and helping customers, though Shepherd hates to think of the Giant now.

How much Jordan loved the color purple and getting her hair done — she preferred purple braids — and looking pretty. And feeling loved.

Shepherd keeps hearing the sound of her daughter’s laughter, she said.

But she’s busy, too — busy trying to corral relatives, including Jordan’s grandmother and five siblings, and gather them at the family home in Upper Marlboro for a funeral. Busy trying to find a mortician. Busy trying to persuade a cemetery to accept Jordan’s body.

Shepherd has started an online fundraiser to help cover the expenses, which she fears will be substantial, but is determined to pay.

“My butterfly deserves to go home like a warrior,” Shepherd said, “a woman warrior that fought for doing the right thing.”

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Since Jordan’s death, Angel has been acting oddly, Shepherd said. The bond between Jordan and the black-and-white Jack Russell terrier was strong; Jordan always forged close relationships with animals, which she loved to help. Once, Shepherd said, Jordan spent 24 consecutive hours cleaning dirty bowls and blankets for cats and dogs at an animal shelter.

Angel knows something is wrong. She keeps running into Jordan’s room, Shepherd said, and leaping onto the bed.

She nestles among Jordan’s blankets, all patterned with butterflies. She refuses to get down.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

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