KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Most health experts agree when it comes to feeding babies, breast milk is best.
That`s why St. Luke`s has its own bank for donations of breast milk and provides milk for thousands of babies across the United States.
Roughly 5 percent of those donations come from mothers who lost their newborns, including one metro mom who found a way to keep her newborn's legacy alive.
This is a story about a letter and leis, but mostly it`s a story about Stephanie Surrey`s fourth child, Marion Ohana Surrey. She was born with a full head of hair, but severe complications.
"They told us we didn`t know how long she would be with us. Whether minutes, or days, I was unsure," she told FOX4.
Marion died three days after she was born. Initially, her family considered donating her organs.
"I have always felt like Marion - that her purpose here was to help others," the mom said.
But she was too tiny. Instead, ounce by ounce, her family found another way.
"Every ounce that we could collect was going to help someone else," Surrey said.
And it did. she donated thousands of ounces -- hundreds of gallons -- of breast milk.
"When I turned the pump in, this summer, cause I had dried up, I cried. I just cried and cried. It was like giving her up all over again," she said.
The milk she pumped because of baby Marion helped hundreds of other babies.
"We really recognize that this is really life-saving and life-giving," milk bank director Barbara Carr said.
FOX4 was there when Carr met the Surreys for the first time.
"It`s bittersweet, because we do know that it`s going to help another baby - but we know it`s a terribly sad time for a woman to be in that position," Carr said.
And the Surreys remember their daughter and sister with leis.
"Her middle name is Ohana, so her name is Marion Ohana Surrey, and Ohana means family - and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten," Surrey said.
And aloha means both "hello" and "goodbye" because the first time most people met Marion was their last. Just like the letter, and the leis, Marion Ohana is the gift the Surrey family eagerly shares.