It’s been all go. After breakfast Treena brought a basin of warm water, a bar of soap and a face flannel into the bedroom. Not wanting to cede control of my personal hygiene, on top of all the other recent great and small losses of personal autonomy, even down to cutting up my own food, I have until now resisted her offer to wash me.
She pulled my T-shirt over my head. I lifted my arms and she gently soaped my armpits, an act which seemed more intimate somehow than making love. Now, with my arms aloft, seemed as good a time as any to broach the subject. ‘How about,’ I suggested conversationally, ‘if I just swallowed, say, 20 or 30 of the red, short-acting morphine capsules. Wouldn’t I gently drift off to sleep? And wouldn’t that be a nice and easy way for me to go?’
Wringing out the flannel into the bowl and starting on my back with wide circular motions, the former nurse considered my proposition, again from a strictly practical point of view. The evening before, my usual morphine dose, plus some extra, unofficial capsules, had failed to mask the pain, which had achieved a new and inconceivable sharpness. The failure of the prescribed morphine dose to do its job felt like another passing milestone; in this case, the significant milestone after which one begins to ask the inevitable question.
The flannel didn’t falter in its careful, gentle circling. ‘I was wondering when you were going to ask,’ she said carefully. ‘Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as that. The trouble is you would vomit them up and your dying would be a messy, prolonged and distressing business, for all concerned. You would need to swallow an anti-emetic with the morphine.