It seemed like we had figured out how to keep Madeline comfortable at night and allow us to sleep. Hydrocodone at 6:00 in the evening, a larger does at midnight, and a small one at 6:30 in the morning. I’d go to bed on the early side, Richard would stay up to dose her at midnight. I’d give her the morning dose before I took her for a morning walk. Two nights of nearly adequate sleep, and I was feeling hopeful.

Last night it was like the medicine just stopped working. I went to bed, and even though he was tired, Richard stayed up to give her the midnight dose. Madeline coughed once or twice before midnight, enough to make me roll over, but not really wake up. But it was after midnight, when she should have been most comfortable and resting, that it took off. Repeated violent, hacking, wretching coughing fits. In my sleep fogged state, I wasn’t sure if Richard had given her her medicine until he came to bed at 1:30, bleary eyed, tired, and more than a little frustrated. We both lay there, wide awake now, as she hacked away, laid down, shifted, hacked again.

I gave her a little more hydrocodone and used a pillow to elevate her head, thinking that maybe position and elevation were the key. She started to calm down, and Richard spoke, his voice heavy with exhaustion. “I can’t do a week of this on my own.” I tried to go back to sleep, feeling frustrated, angry, and helpless.

I woke up several times before really falling deeply asleep. Every time I’d marvel at how quiet it was, half expecting the silence to be shattered at any moment.

This morning I woke up and started to get ready for church. I gave Maddie her morning medicine and went to shower. Moments later I heard her yelp, as if in pain. I ran back to the bedroom, and found her and Richard sitting side by side on the bed. “She jumped up and then screamed, like it hurt her,” he said. She laid down with a huff, wheezing and wimpering a little as Richard stroked her back. For some reason the drugs we give her to manage inflammation from her hip dysplasia weren’t helping this morning. I stroked Madeline’s head, suddenly very aware how important she is to me. I was crying when I got in the shower, feeling on an emotional level what I’ve known rationally for a while: she won’t be with us much longer.

Richard and Madeline were still sitting on the bed when I finished showering. It took me a moment to realize Richard’s face was slick with tears. I sat down with them, and asked if he was OK.

“No. She’s obviously uncomfortable right now, but she’s still so much herself.”

“I know. I know.”

“I’m sorry, Maddie,” he said.

“For what? What are you sorry for?” I couldn’t imagine what he had to be sorry for. This man who courted me by courting Madeline, bringing her freeze dried Kobe beef cubes as a peace offering when we first started dating.

“That we can’t do anything else. That we can’t make her feel better.” We held each other with Maddie sitting between us, and cried.

This pendulum of emotions – from anger and frustration back to empathy and grief and back again – isn’t something I’ve ever experienced before. No, that’s not true. When a friend died, when a relationship ended, when I left Indiana: all of those times – times of loss – I experienced a pendulum of feelings. I’ve just never experienced it this intensely, this broad a swing.