Errol Milner Clifford 2006-2009

Errol Milner Clifford was born with a significant heart defect and a cognitive disability that prevented him from walking or talking. As we grieved the child we had anticipated, Errol’s full-bodied smile and irrepressible laugh turned our sorrow into joy, and taught us that many of the best things in life are unexpected. Inspired by Errol’s delightful spirit, friends, family, and neighbors rallied to support our family’s significant emotional, physical, and financial needs, through countless acts of selfless generosity. When Errol’s courageous heart finally failed him on December 23, 2009 we were left numb with grief. In these dark hours we listen hopefully for the echoes of Errol’s brilliant laugh. This blog is the story (starting from present and working back to Errol's birth) of the life and times of the amazing Errol Clifford.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Errol is a vocal boy, but we aren't smart enough to understand his words yet. We've been working with Errol (or Caesar Augustus, if the pollsters have their way) on learning to sign. Errol is slowly increasing his vocabulary. He's understands the sign for: eat, more, nuclear proliferation, all done, I, love, and you. Here is Errol, arms crossed, making the sign for love. We hope that one day Errol will be able to say more. But there really is no better place to start than with love.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands

I don't remember learning to clap. I'll never forget Errol learning. 

"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you're happy and you know it clap your hands." 

Usually by the time we've gotten through one verse Errol is ready to clap along to the next four hundred. He needs a little help remembering how to start, but once we take his hands in ours and lead him through the motions a few times, muscle memory clicks in and Errol claps along and along and along. He loves clapping and we've never sung this song more than he wanted.

Errol is a great clapper (and head patter). 

Walking is next!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Errol's favorite baker

Errol has an amazing mother. The Winston-Salem Journal, our local paper, agrees. Here's an article they wrote about Cary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Errol on his third birthday

The Real Errol

Everyone has a name their parents give them, and an actual name. If you are lucky the two are one and the same. We got our first son’s name right. His given name is Owen and his actual name is Owen. It could be that Owen grew into his name, or it could be we picked right. Who knows? What we do know is that we didn’t do as well when we erroneously named our second son Errol. Don’t get me wrong; Errol is a great name, just not for him. It’s not that his name hasn’t grown on me or on him, but still, something is slightly misaligned. It could be that Errol is an adult name and our son is something of a perpetual child (with the good and bad that I imagine that will bring: cuddles at age twenty, and dirty diapers) I’ve been trying to figure our Errol’s real name and I’d love to hear what you think (try the fancy comments feature of this blog, or take the Errol poll just to the right of this post). Having hit a developmental spurt, the Little Man has been more mischievous than ever (pulling things off the table, grabbing hair, setting up ponzi schemes at school). It makes me think his name might actually be Max. You never know. But don’t worry; we don’t want to confuse our boy so we call him by his given name: Errol. He smiles back.

It’s not just names that are not always in harmony with reality. Everyone also has a chronological age and an actual age. For example, by the calendar I’m forty, while in reality I’m 19 (don’t tell the bartender). Errol, on the other hand, just turned three, but in reality he is 78 - an old soul. And it’s no wonder he’s a septuagenarian, Max has been through more at the tender age of 3 than most people go through in a lifetime, and it’s cultivated a beautiful patience and wisdom in “Errol”. One of my great hopes for Errol is that one-day he will live into his real age, and with the medical advances we make every day, it just might happen.

Well, I’m off to get a new tattoo and hit the tanning bed.

-Julia: age 19

Friday, March 20, 2009


I’ve read that when some people lack a sense (sight, hearing) their other senses become more acute: the highly sensitive hearing of blind people. Sometimes we compensate for things we lack. Sometimes what we lack defines what we have. Sometimes I write things that don’t make any sense.

This afternoon, Errol visited his accupressurist, Sarah Girard. (We should all be so lucky to have a healer like Sarah in our lives). I sat and watched Errol as Sarah worked silently on Errol’s sweet little body. As is often the case at Sarah’s, the room radiated with energy; flowing between Sarah and Errol, and throughout the space. I felt mesmerized, entranced, completely still. I passed gas.

Well I didn’t really pass gas, but there was something very big happening in that room. Something my senses could feel, but my brain couldn’t quantify (sort of like tofu).

My brain is very busy. I’ve got two kids, one wife (which is a lot easier than two wives and one kid, I’ve heard), a full time job, this damn blog to write, and a crazy as hell Australian Shepherd (that’s a dog, not a person – and you can have her if you want. Just call 624-1869. She’s yours) As I was saying, my brain is really full. See. It’s nice to have a busy brain. It’s nice to think. (Although if you couldn’t think, you wouldn’t know it!). But it’s also wonderful to taste rich dark chocolate, to sit out in the sun on the vernal equinox (today!), to hear John Coltrane. Kissing is good, too.

We humans really like our brains, and there’s a lot to like, but my goodness, it’s good just to sit sometimes. And the feeling I had while I sat with Errol, feeling the energy (whatever the hell that is) wash through the room, listening to Errol’s happy noises, feeling great love, just sitting and inhabiting that space. It was beautiful.

Errol lives in that space.

If we’d just take the time, we could learn a lot from him.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Errol is Three

Can you believe Errol is 3? Amazing, no? We are so lucky to have him!

Errol has gone through another great evolutionary leap. He wants so much to stand!
We hold him by his shoulders and he straightens his little legs out. Now he can hold his weight for thirty seconds. It's a real huge step towards walking. He is thrilled!

Errol is also a lot more vocal these days, and we're especially happy about the gggggg sounds he's making (apparently a marker of progress.) These are happy days for us as we watch our boys grow (Owen is learning to read and write and is so proud of his new discoveries!) Stay tuned for more Errol photographs from his annual birthday fashion shoot.

Although he is changing, none of these advancements have kept him from being the same old happiest person in the room that he's always been.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Frustration = Progress

Frustration is the root of all progress.
Errol is throwing tantrums these days.
We are thrilled.
We put him down on the floor for just a second and he pulls at his hair, flaps his arms, and screams.
Errol is so frustrated. We are so happy. And we think it’s going to lead somewhere good.
For the past three years, Errol’s desires have been mostly negative:
No wetness. No hunger. No pain.
This is perhaps his first positive desire. Errol really wants to walk. It’s making him mad. And that’s just great with us.