stairway

This Staircase Lets a Grieving Mother Comfort Her Dead Daughter During Storms

One mother refused to give up on her maternal responsibilities to her daughter, even after the child passed away.

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Being a mother is a beautiful gift. It challenges you in ways you never thought possible and brings you to the pinnacle of compassion and love. For Ellen Ford, that compassion and love for her daughter never faded. Even after the tragically early passing of her child, Florence Irene Ford.

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It was in 1871 when 10-year-old Florence died from yellow fever. When she was a baby, and well into her childhood years, Florence had been terrified of storms. The cacophony of noise and howling winds scared her terribly. However, her mother would always comfort her and bring her peace during those storms. Ellen would continue to comfort her daughter until the storm passed.

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Ellen’s Request for her Daughter

Naturally distraught at the loss of her young daughter’s life, Ellen thought about the storms that would come. She couldn’t bear to think of her daughter having to go through the noise alone, in the darkness of her casket. So, she made a request that surely turned more than a few heads.

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At the head of Florence’s casket was to be a window. This way, Ellen could see her daughter, and speak comforting words to her when she needed to hear them. A narrow stairway was built six feet down, with a hinged metal trapdoor at the entrance. Ellen would climb down those stairs and close the metal door, protecting her and her daughter from the loudness of the storms. She would sing, or read to her daughter until the storm passed – just as she had done all her life.

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grave stairs
Credit – Natalie Maynor

Since 1871, not much has changed with Florence’s grave. The epitaph clearly reads “As bright and affectionate a Daughter as ever God with His Image blest,” and visitors still maintain the headstone. In fact, the metal trapdoor still works. To this day, visitors can still comfort Florence when storms arise. You won’t be able to peer into the casket, though. In the late 1950s, a cement wall was built over the window to prevent vandalism and grave robbing.

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Grieving

While many people are touched by this story, there are some who hold judgment about Ellen’s request. It’s important to remember that different people grieve in different ways. For Ellen, this was her way of continuing to be a part of her daughter’s life. It was a way for her to still be a mother and comfort her daughter.

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The Hospice Foundation of America states, “You or someone you love may express grief in a more cognitive way, thinking about the person often. These types of grievers may find it helpful to be active in projects such as managing a scholarship fund to honor the person who has died. These different ways or patterns of grief are just that; they are different. No pattern is better or worse. They are simply expressions of the fact that each person copes with loss in a personal way.

Where to Visit

If you would like to see this beautiful memorial to Florence, she is buried at Natchez City Cemetery, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Hours of visitation are from 7 a.m. until dusk, and the gates are locked when the cemetery closes.

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Keep Reading: My Wife Of 51 Years Died. Here’s What I Learned About Grief That I Never Knew Before

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Sources

  1. Grave of Florence Irene Ford.” Atlas Obscura
  2. Mother requests stairs next to daughter’s grave so she can comfort her during stormsMirror. Edward Kay. October 21, 2021
  3. The Different Ways We Grieve.” Hospice Foundation of America.
Jade Small
Freelance Writer
Jade is a freelance writer and content creator from South Africa with over 7 years experience writing and creating. She's also a proud single mom to a super 13 year old boy.
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