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, December 30, 2010


As we get closer to December 23, our trip to Guatemala for Cary’s brother Roy’s wedding is a warm respite from our swelling grief. The historic town of Antigua sits in a valley between three volcanoes, and one morning, Owen and I sit on the roof of our hotel and watch ash billow from a volcano. The day after Owen’s Uncle’s wedding, the family leaves the comforts of Antigua to climb the 8,373 foot volcano, Pacaya. As we hike above the tree line, steam rises out of vents in the earth, and during a rest break we have to stand because the ground is too hot to sit on. After our break, we continue up, sloshing through volcanic ash, over pumice and rock, making our way, higher and higher. When we stop at a deep steaming fissure, the stick Owen throws into the searing crevice bursts into flame before it reaches the bottom.

One night, back home, the rush of Christmas passed, Owen dreams about Errol. He wakes in a golden mood, and the story of his dream spills from his mouth.
I was in Guatemala. These monkeys were throwing coconuts down to us. My brother was giggling. He really liked the monkeys chittering. We all liked what the monkeys did because most of the time it was funny.

The next day, at art therapy, Owen builds a sand volcano that buries all his figurines. At the end of the session, as Owen squirms between us, his therapist reports, “Owen is really working with an intense volcano metaphor!”
“The metaphor is intense,” I agree, “but Owen really did climb a volcano last week.” His therapist looks impressed. “Well, the volcano keeps erupting and Owen keeps trying to save everybody. And Owen is also scared about what might happen to him. He wants to be invincible.” We both look at Owen, who seems to have grown a foot taller over Christmas. “Remember what invincible means, Owen?” she asks.

Owen looks past us, into the thinning winter light, searching and searching.

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