Leilani Jordan's mother mourns the loss of her 'butterfly'

"My baby's gone for $20.64," Leilani Jordan's mother said.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A mother is mourning the loss of her 27-year-old daughter — her "butterfly" — who died of coronavirus after refusing to miss a day working at her Maryland grocery store job.

Leilani Jordan "wanted to help anyone that she came in contact with" at her job as a clerk at a Giant Food in Largo, her mother Zenobia Shepherd told MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle in a tearful interview Thursday.

But Jordan was concerned about her safety at work. "She said to me 'Mom ... I have to take my own hand sanitizer because there's none available, there’s no gloves available,'" Shepherd said.

Leilani Jordan.Family Handout

Still, Jordan, who had disabilities, was especially sympathetic toward senior customers. The 27-year-old started feeling sick in the middle of March, her mother said. She was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on March 26 and died on April 1, according to a memorial page.

"I'm a mother, and I have a hole in my heart for the rest of my life. My baby is gone," Shepherd said. "She was my butterfly."

Shepherd said she received a paycheck for just over $20 for her daughter, a delayed five-year pin and a certificate after her daughter died.

"My baby’s gone for $20.64," Shepherd said.

"She did this from her heart, not for the money," she added. "Customers have been finding me and calling me and telling me 'thank you, you don’t know what your baby did for us every day.'"

Shepherd is concerned for other workers deemed essential during the pandemic — other grocery store workers, mail delivery people, sanitation people and everyone else who cannot do their jobs from home.

"For $20.64, they could have bought a box of gloves to give to them; they could have kept that paycheck," Shepherd said of Giant. "You know what using the proper PPE could have done for my baby?"

Felismina Andrade, a communications director for Giant, said that Jordan's last day of work was March 16, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not yet recommending masks. After CDC guidance changed, associates who want them have been provided plastic shields. More than 72,000 have been spread among stores.

Associates were "allowed" to wear gloves in the first month of March, and hand sanitizer and cleaning products were available, Andrade said.

March 16 was a Monday, and Jordan's paycheck covered the three hours she worked that day after union dues, Andrade told NBC News.

"Our Giant Food family is mourning Leilani’s passing, along with her family, as she was a valued associate who has been part of our Giant Food family since 2016," said a statement from the company. "We are supporting Leilani’s family during this difficult time and have been in direct contact with her mother to address her needs."

What Shepherd said she needs most now is help covering costs related to Jordan's funeral.

A service will be held on April 20, according to an online obituary. Visitation is limited to 10 people, and a burial will be held at a "later date."

Shepherd said she's been told her daughter won't be laid to rest for at least five months.

"You can't handle a COVID funeral the way you can handle a regular funeral," she said.