It's all or nothing here. Rose is still either asleep or in pain but the pendulum swings further in each direction now - the sleep is longer and deeper, the pain when she wakes more unbearable to watch. New drugs are brought into play, old ones that are no longer up to the job are taken out, fresh hopes raised for the holy grail of pain-free, or as close to it as we can get.
It leaves long periods when she lies there sleeping or zoning out, in varying levels of consciousness, when I am at a loss for what to do for her. I long to scrub her - to wash her hair, her body, to take off her flaky nail varnish, the wristband she still clings to from a disco in August when she was last a normal little girl, to dress her in clean pyjamas and dry her hair but she is like a wild animal in pain and won't be touched. Surreptitious attempts to clean under the filthiest fingernails I've ever seen rouse her immediately and wet sponges are smacked angrily away. So I give up on that.
I take ridiculous amounts of photographs of her which I then delete because they are all the same. And anyway they are not Rose and they are not how I want to remember her. So I give up on that too. I could do some Christmas shopping online. And as soon as I have the idea I shy away immediately from the torture of it. I know it's relentlessly drawing nearer - what is to become an annual hurdle is only weeks away but if I ignore it perhaps it will just go away. Where do all the bereaved parents of small children go at Christmas I wonder - good grief perhaps there's a festive support group at Demelza House - or will we still be here pulling crackers over her bed. And how many of my children am I buying presents for. It's all intolerable so I give up on that too.
So what I do instead is I tell her the story of her. Perhaps she can hear me, perhaps I'm talking to myself but I tell her how much we wanted and planned for her, how excited we were, how badly Felix, Daddy and I all wanted a baby girl, a baby sister. I tell her about her birth - she's heard it all before but I tell her really slowly and say all the best bits twice. I go on and on and tell her all the funny anecdotes she loves, about all the holidays we've had, about nursery and starting school, about learning to swim, to ride her bike, about getting Harvey as a puppy, about the Isle of Wight. Mostly I tell her over and over how fiercely we love her, how desperately and pathetically sorry we are for every minute of the last three years, how insanely proud we are of her. God poor child. Not only is she dying and in terrible pain but she's got me banging on and on over her bedside and she can't even get away. At least she hasn't got to read this drivel.