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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Owen's Book For Errol

Our friends bring their seven month old to dinner. His sweet little sounds remind us of Errol who, when he died at age three and a half years, was developmentally about seven or eight months old. After our friends leave, Owen disappears into his room. He returns a few minutes later with the book he has been writing about Errol. We begin to add a second chapter to it.

Owen dictates and I type:

Chapter 2

I really, really, really miss Errol because he died seven months ago.
He is my best companion in the family.

Errol is the nicest brother in the whole universe.
Errol was so important to me.

Errol, my mom, and my dad are my best companions in the family.
Errol was so great to me.
I really liked how when I held him he would giggle sometimes.

I really miss Errol and I wish he were still here with us.
If Errol were here I would tickle him, and play peek-a-boo, and hold him and never put him down.

Errol would really like the summer time because he loved warm weather.
He would have really liked the pool we went to the other day. I really miss him.

Errol would have really liked Owen’s birthday party.
He would have liked the big splash Owen makes on the diving board and he would have liked opening Owen’s presents.
He would have really liked playing with the wrapping paper of the presents.

After I write his words out for him Owen turns to see if I am crying, reaches to embrace me with a big hug, and says, “it’s ok, Daddy.”

But it's really not.

Owen, Cary and I go into the boys’ room to put Owen down for the night. Cary reads Owen’s book about Errol out loud and Owen says, “We should get Errol wrapping paper for his birthday this year.” Cary stares ahead and says, ”I sure miss that little boy” and she starts to cry.

Unasked, Owen rushes to the bathroom to gets his mother a tissue, but before he can come back we hear him break into a high lonesome cry. After a minute, Owen reappears with a tissue to his watery eyes and a fist full of tissues for our tears. We tell Owen that he is the best kid in the world, as we fall upon one another like rain.

When our tears finally slow, Cary says, “I was going by the food co-op today when I realized I had forgotten to pick up Errol.”

And this morning, I made the same mistake. After I drop Owen off for school I steer the car - for a nanosecond - towards Errol's school until I remember that Errol is not with me.

I really miss Errol and I wish he were still here with us.
Errol was so great to me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Errol's Quilt

Errol’s quilt, made from his clothes by our dear friend Stephanie, sits on the back of our sofa by day, and covers Owen by night.

Red and white plaid frames the quilt, and within the border are Errol’s black jeans handed down from his brother and now handed back down to us. I remember putting Errol on his tummy on a soft blanket, and folding his legs in these black jeans, up under him, hoping he would use his body, bent into the start of a crawl, to push his trunk forward. I hoped that would lead to crawling, then walking, then running. Of course, Errol had his own idea, and he just laughed and rolled over and then I tickled him.

There is a swatch of Errol’s blue denim jeans and their little man pockets that made him look like a little farmer.

There is the light blue plaid shirt that Errol’s mother especially liked and that I would dress him in on special occasions.

There is a blue and white plaid long-sleeved shirt that we put Errol in to go horseback riding.

There are the striped jean corduroy overalls that made Errol look like a train conductor. I have a picture of Errol in these pants with his train conductor hat, smiling for all the world. All aboard!

It is the little pockets adorning the quilt that get me - so empty.

The quilt is more than just Errol’s clothes; it brims with his smiles, and love, and joy.

Then there is the Joan Miro back of the quilt: riotous color and joyous patterns filling the canvas with broad stripes of red, blue, and green from Errol’s plush pajamas. It is what I imagine the flag of a country ruled by happy children would look like. There are the pjs with the stegosaurus and triceratops gleefully riding baseballs and footballs through outer space, enjoying impossible, happy dreams! There are Errol’s red velvety pjs that looked like a smoking jacket and made him look like a little playboy. And there are Errol’s sporty pjs that say GOAL above the upright, soccer playing alligator - uh oh! Errol wore these pajamas with his orange glasses that Sunday before his last surgery.

These are the clothes we put Errol to bed in, as we kissed him good night and wondered what he would dream of and how long we would be able to hold him.

Good night, sleep tight, wake up bright in the morning light.