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.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


The mornings find frost on the south facing car windows, the days end earlier, my gut tightens as our half of the earth tilts away from the sun. The slant of the weakening light reminds me of the thinning days when we were losing Errol. At night, I lie mute, alone on my bed, falling asleep while Owen reads alone in his room. I stare up at the crumbling plaster ceiling, my mind tracing back over the contours of my life with Errol, trying to understand something that cannot be reckoned.

I pick up a picture from the bedside chest, one of the many pictures of Errol that litters our house like empty wrappers, and rub Errol’s shining face. I rub little flecks of ink off on my fingers, slowly wearing a hole into his picture. I hold the picture, looking down at Errol and think back.

Errol looks back up at me, a mute supplicant. The camera that I hold to my face hides my smile as I gaze down upon Errol’s buoyant face through the lens. I see his wet eyes, his surprise at the metal attached to my head, the smile spreading across his lips. He is my only hope, I think; so forgiving, so gracious. The light streams into the camera and then the lens snaps shut.

When Errol was alive, we were so connected that sometimes it was like my nerves were inside Errol. When we were at the doctor’s office and the needle entered Errol’s vein, I could feel the cold metallic taste on my tongue. But now my nerves feel nothing, and as I hold Errol’s picture close to my face, I wonder if his goodness, clarity, generosity was real, if I could have imagined him, if Errol could have all been a dream.

I put the picture back on the windowsill where it sits fading under the sun. I walk around the house unsure of what to do with so much time. Thinking: when you have a dead child, you never get home. Home is always somewhere else. I pace around my empty house looking, looking, looking everywhere in the thinning light.

Other loses come and go, are sloughed away by time, but Errol’s loss sits hard in my gut like the pit of a peach; indigestible.

That night, I finally sleep, but I still can’t dream about Errol. Instead I dream that Owen and I are swimming. As we swim, a few tiny sharks approach and swim harmlessly around our legs, then a huge dark figure emerges below us, and before we can scramble from the water, a huge Orca lunges up out of the water, and I scream to warn Owen to get out of the water, but he cannot hear me. Then the image shifts and Owen and I are walking home for miles and miles and we walk up a steep hill, crowned with tombstones, white like Errol’s hair, and Owen asks me where we are but I do not answer and we walk on silently through the crowded graveyard trying to get home as a steel blue sky swallows the light from the east, and the night falls upon us like a blanket and we were still far from home.

I wake and realize that it is the start of daylight savings time, and I reach to turn the clock back an hour, and then fall back into my bed and try to go back to sleep, but I just lie there in the bed staring up at the ceiling, wondering where the hour we lose this weekend will go. I remember that last hour we sat with Errol before he had stopped breathing, knowing the moment would finally come, when there would be no going back, no turning the clock back. When there would be nothing to look forward to. He was lost to us and there was nothing to find in the steel blue night.