Local organ donor will be honored at Rose Parade

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(WTVG) - A local family has turned their pain into action.

The Tudors have taken their heartbreak over their daughter's unexpected death, and found ways to honor her legacy.

Now, Marissa Tudor will be recognized in a special way at the Rose Parade in California for her life-saving actions through organ donation.

A year and a half ago, Mark and Shelly Tudor's life changed forever.

Their 22-year-old daughter, Marissa, died after complications from a routine surgery. Since then, Marissa has saved numerous lives through organ donation.

A floragraph portrait of Marissa will join 44 others in the Rose Parade on the Gift of Life float. It's an honor loved ones say fits Marissa perfectly.

Marissa's parents say from the time their daughter could walk, she wanted to be an organ donor.

"You have 100,000 people on a waiting list and 22 people a day die waiting for a transplant, and this is such a selfless gift. A selfless act that you know why wouldn't you do it is what she always said. She couldn't understand why people would ever say no to this," said her father, Mark Tudor.

It's a cause near to Mark Tudor's heart. He's worked at the Gift of Life Michigan organization for over 20 years.

"Never in my lifetime did I think it would hit so close to home. And, you know, having asked families hundreds of times whether they want their loved ones to be a donor, to have that table flipped on me was obviously a shock, but was something I knew she wanted," said Tudor.

The Tudors have grown close to the recipients and call them part of their extended family.

"For us it's not a liver recipient or a lung recipient. It's Amy, it's Juanita, it's George, it's Florinda. We talk to these people on a weekly basis. Facebook, social media, we stay in contact," said Tudor.

Coping with their daughter's sudden death has been understandably difficult. But in their grief, they've found a way to help her legacy live on.

Following Marissa's tonsillectomy, excessive bleeding left blood in her hair and the combs in the ICU didn't do the trick.

"Marissa was like, 'No brainier, Mom! When I get out of the hospital,' she's like, 'I'm going to go get a bunch of brushes and we're going to take them back up to these hospitals and donate them.' And I was like what an amazing idea," said her mother, Shelly Cross-Tudor.

Sadly, the nursing student never fulfilled that dream. But, her family created the "Brush of Kindness" nonprofit in her honor.

"Getting these stories back from families, you know, it's a simple hairbrush. But, until you're in that situation and they bring out this tiny black comb for somebody's hair that is like this ... it's impossible," said Cross-Tudor.

More than 5,000 brushes have been donated to hospital around the country and even in Puerto Rico.

"Every time we give a brush away it just makes us feel like we're helping carry out something she wanted to do," said Tudor.

It's become a bonding activity and a way to cope and heal.

To learn more about "Brush of Kindness" click here.

The Tudors look forward to meeting other donor families and honoring Marissa this New Year's Day at the Rose Parade.

Monday, the family will be adding final touches on to Marissa's floragraph at a kick off event with other donor families in Ann Arbor.

Then at the end of the month, they'll travel to California, help put rose petals on the float, and watch the parade from the sidelines.