ONE thing is a dead cert … and it isn’t morphine. Since surgery to remove my left lung last November I have been on a cocktail of medication including morphine-based pain relief.

After the surgery and during a series of chest drains and other painful interventions I was eagerly swallowing two slow releasing tablets twice a day and topping up with fast acting “morphine hits” in between.

More recently the pain has gone down a few gears – but it’s still there – and the battle against fatigue has overtaken it as a priority for quality of daily life.

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That’s why I was referred to a palliative care pain relief nurse.

It made sense to explore if there was a better alternative to morphine for me … one that perhaps would reduce the tiredness that often sweeps over me.

So, when the gently lilting Irish tones of the Ayrshire Hospice palliative care nurse trickled down the phone line I was at first a little surprised to be engaging in a wide-ranging conversation about my children, grand-children, appetite and sleep pattern.

This was clearly a full body and soul holistic MoT carried out by a compassionate palliative care practitioner who could easily broach any subject with empathy, confidence and compassion.

And here was me expecting a brief discussion about replacing morphine with some other type of pain killing drug.

Do I have a faith? Did I have a will? Have I talked with my wife and family about where I would want to die and how I’d like my funeral to be arranged?

The way she nudged me along this conversational road was masterful, helped in no small way by the gentle breeze of her voice. “My husband knows every detail of how I want things to be,” she added to give some quiet reassurance that you don’t have to have a terminal illness to engage in such conversations.

My wife and I have written our wills and we know we both want a cremation…but I haven’t said to anyone where I’d like to be when the time comes – at home, in a hospital or a hospice. I haven’t written anything down about the type of service I’d want.

It would have been easier to just talk about the pain relief options but on reflection this was a very good intervention.

Talking about death is a topic most often avoided as if it might never happen.

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Perhaps that’s why almost 60 per cent of us die in an acute hospital bed despite 80 per cent of us saying in a recent survey that we’d rather die at home.

My wife, Laura – a fully trained nurse – said to me that she just assumed I’d want her to look after me at home for as long as was possible. She is right – but I hadn’t said it out loud to anyone.

The only two certainties in life are death and taxes. Lord knows, we all talk about the taxes we pay but how often do we talk about death and how we’d like to face it?

Ally McLaws is MD of the McLaws Consultancy, specialists in business marketing and reputation management. All previous columns can be viewed at: