She woke to a throbbing sensation in her head, like tidal waves pounding furiously against stone embankments. Her mouth felt parched and attempts to move her limbs ended in futility. The familiar hums and buzzes of medical equipment filled her ears with the low pitch beeps of the heart monitor interjecting at regular intervals. Recollection of events of past few days seemed to be a blur and attempts to make sense of them exacerbated the headaches, however, a faint idea whirled in her head….request your death…….The intense glow of the electrical lighting forced her to leave her eyes half-open and in the slightly occluded view, she could see the blue nondescript hospital attire she was draped in; machine tubes pierced and entered parts of her body she was too numb to feel. It was hard to tell if it was day or night……feeling a growing sense of weariness, she let herself slip back into oblivion…. request your death.
“You have suffered a relapse of your condition, Morenike,” Doctor Ladi said with a concerned look. Now fully awake and propped up by pillows, she gained full consciousness the next day. The weariness had ebbed; she had regained slight control of her arms, some more hairs on her head had fallen off and her natural light skin had lost some of its color. She stared expressionless at Ladi, who stood next to her, musing over data on the LED displays and scribbling on his notepad. She owed her prolonged existence to him. He was a John Hopkins trained Doctor touted the best – from a handful- of oncologists practicing in Lagos and by extension Nigeria, and she was grateful they were friends.
He continued “Tunde left yesterday for an unavoidable business trip as he put it. Wole and Ibukun both have school exams but they would be here tomorrow. Nevertheless, I have assured them of your stable state,” He switched to the professional tone he often used when discussing health related matters, “However, There’s a new complication which you should know about; tumors in your colon, that we removed earlier with some relative success, have spread to some other organs, notably the liver. This changes the treatment plan and I am afraid, we do not have the expertise to handle such situation.” He paused, looking to gauge her reaction but her gaze was fixed on a point just above his head. “However, we….I… am making arrangements for you to meet a team of experts with our affiliates in Germany who would carry out some more diagnostic tests and chart a new treatment course for you but Morenike, you…have…between four to five years more to live at most,” he completed.
She felt indifferent about this new ‘complication’ as he put it. After three years of battling colon cancer, few things elicited emotions in her anymore. Each day brought with it anguish and an incurable sense of hopelessness. The devastation to her life and family had spread slowly but indelibly: her health frail; her work gone; friends all but gone and family finances dwindling .Her husband’s disposition towards her ,she feared, was slowly changing. Who could blame him? Maybe she was being paranoid…request your death…the seemingly obscure idea flashed again growing stronger every time it crossed her mind.
“Ladi,”she started, with a firm voice that belied her debility, “I have lived, not always affluently but I have never lacked the important things. You as well as I know how that has changed in the past few years…I…I…I…”she broke off momentarily, gathered herself and stared at him, despair in her eyes, “I have been rendered less than human…less than a wife….less than a mother…. an object of pity…Now you say to me there’s death lying in wait for me,” her voice broke out in cracks. “I cannot continue to live with the clouds of death hanging over me. Though he may not say it, Tunde has grown tired of me. He literally works just to keep me alive and the kids have been denied basic needs just so their mom would live and with this Germany thing….i just can’t….. I have had enough! Ladi I beg of you put an end to my suffering and theirs. I want you to take my life….i request…want my death….without my family knowing about it.”
Did he hear her correctly? Did she just ask to be euthanized? Was this death wish product of depression or a decision from a sound mind? Did she even realize he’d be breaking ethical and legal codes if he acceded to such request? Questions milled around in his mind, each as grave as the next. He was a close friend of the family, had watched her family scourged by the predicament of her illness and, even though he was bound by law and compassion to preserve her life, a part of him wanted to help her –and them – put an end to it. But what had changed? Morenike he knew was a strong-willed woman with an unquenchable zest for life. But given the latest development, she had roughly five more years to live – with the help of expensive treatments. Killing her would only hasten the inevitable: Death. This seemed a slight vindication on his conscience if he went through with it, but could he live with her death on his mind? It was a guilt he’d have to shoulder for a friend.
“Against my better judgment, I would do it,” he said sympathetically. “Tunde and the kids are constantly haunted by the fear that you might sleep one day and never wake up. I will do this to bring closure to them and to you. Like you said, this will be kept between us. You will not tell your kids or husband if they come visiting.” He took a step closer, taking her hand in his and said quietly, “In about week, exactly Saturday, I would inject you with a lethal dose, Morenike, if you decide to change your mind before that time, please let me know.” she heaved a heavy sigh, squeezed her eyes shut for a moment…request your death….the thought flashed again. “My mind is made up.” she said, “It seems selfish of me, but I won’t put my family through anymore agony…they have had enough time to prepare for my death so they won’t grieve much if I die. In a week from now, like you have said, you put an end to this.”
Her mind seemed made up, A week or a month from now, it’d still be the same “Very well, I will leave now,” he said. He left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Saturday came along with it a sense of gloom. Walking ponderously towards Morenike’s ward, he had asked the resident doctor attached to him to go on another assignment. Doubt coursed through him as he wondered if he had made the right decision in accepting and if he could truly go through with it. What if he was caught? He had progressed with significant success in his career by hard work, prudence, and conscientiousness but this singular decision threatened all of these .True, with the high incidence of death associated with the disease, another casualty would be one among many but could he take such risk? Thoughts of her enfeebled body; of her once radiant visage; of the harrowing experiences yet to come, filled his mind. The professional detachment he usually had with most of his patients was undoubtedly gone in Morenike’s case. There was nothing to numb these feelings. He’d do it.
He stepped into her ward and found her fully awake, seemingly prepared and staring blankly at him. An uncomfortable silence pervaded the room as their gazes locked in quiet acknowledgement of what was about to happen. She nodded her head to tell she had not changed her mind as they had had a little discussion the previous day. Neither uttered a word, wanting to avoid the awkwardness a conversation would bring. He reached into his pocket for the lethal syringe and without breaking gaze, he walked to her bedside, paused for a moment like he was deep in thought. Holding up her hand, he injected the macabre liquid into her body and stepped back almost immediately, watching her through eyes glistening with tears. A sudden calm suffused her as the light gradually escaped from her eyes with breath becoming lighter with each passing second.
Ten minutes later, she was dead.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in the sprawling suburb of Ikorodu. Tunde relaxed casually into the soft cushion of his sofa in the plainly decorated apartment, reveling in the serenity of its ambience like he often did. The apartment had become his sanctum whenever he needed a break from the responsibilities of his life. No one knew of its existence and it stayed that way. He had lied to everyone that his occasional absences were business related and lately the ‘absences’ had grown frequent.
Then his mobile phone rang. It was Doctor Ladi “Hello Doctor, How are you? And how is she? “He listened for the news he had both yearned for and dreaded at the same time. “Nooo” He exclaimed,feigning surprise and anguish. he listened on as the news of his wife’s death was relayed to him. “I would be there first thing tomorrow,” he said finally and ended the call.
Bittersweet emotions coursed through him as the slight feeling of despair soon gave way to relief. Morenike was dead. The past couple of years had been tough; life had dealt several blows to his business and family, each pummeling reinforcing the last. In spite of these, he had carried on stoically, being the loving husband, father and to some extent, shielding his family. The sucker punch came when his wife was diagnosed with cancer and all efforts had been plunged into her well-being. The constant relapses made matters worse as his finances thinned. He had had to make a seemingly diabolical decision to salvage what was left of the family: surreptitiously orchestrating her death! He loved her, without a doubt, but this had gone beyond the sentimentality of love, he needed to save their family and seek closure for himself and their children. He had read about how people became open to suggestions when hypnotized, had fortunately found a LUTH physician whose fascination and obsession with hypnotism bordered on fanatical. The physician had agreed to plant the idea of a death wish in Morenike’s mind simply because of the scientific value the process held to him, never even questioning his reasons. During bouts of Morenike’s health related depressions, he had suggested she met a physician friend of his to help rid the depression with hypnotherapy. This had been a pretext to plant the idea. He premised that Ladi would grant the request as he had once plaintively expressed to him, the challenges he faced keeping his wife alive and holding his family together, setting the stage for when morenike would wish her death. Staying away from her these past few days was a deliberate attempt to quicken the process, visiting her just once. His plan had been a major gamble, he did not however think it’d happen this fast.
Tomorrow, He had to put up a convincing mourning husband performance but truly, he felt empty