by Erato Sahapoglu
(Excerpt from Memoir in Progress: With Love as Guide)

It was the night that my mother died. I was lying in bed, fully awake, a small night-light on, my seven-year-old daughter Kathy asleep beside me.

Suddenly I am torn by a very sharp pain, like a dagger plunging straight into my heart. It squeezes me like an iron clamp. The pain gets stronger and spreads through my chest, paralyzing my left arm completely. I lose my breath, I choke.

A heart attack?

Here, I must explain that during the whole period that my mother was in the hospital, I had had constant pain in my heart, accompanied by tachycardia, blackouts and fainting spells. At the beginning I paid no attention to them. I attributed them to my chronic heart ailment caused by an acute attack of rheumatic fever in my childhood. Though, ten years ago, the airline for which I was working with had refused me a life insurance, after a thorough check-up and X-rays of my heart. What I was experiencing now, reminded me of the prognosis Dr. Alex had given me in my late teens that, past the age of forty my condition could worsen. Just the week before, on my husband’s insistence, I had an electrocardiogram. It showed an irregular heartbeat and I was advised to be hospitalized for observation. I didn’t follow this advice. I was positive that my symptoms were induced by my wish to experience my mother’s pain.

So now, lying beside my daughter, I try to control my pain with my will-power. Reasoning that this pain is not real; it is only a psychological identification with my mother’s suffering.

But, soon the pain and the iron grip become unbearable… I am sweating in an effort to breathe! This is real! … Unable to cope alone I finally gasp: “My God, help me, control it! For Kathy’s and Gaby’s sake! … Mother, help me!”

Suddenly, I see my mother’s hand above my chest! Real flesh! A real hand!. In my mind I hear Mother’s voice say:

“ Don’t be afraid! It will be light, like Kathy’s hand.”

Before I realize what is happening, I feel Mother’s hand pass through my clothes. I sense it pass through my chest! I first feel my heart in her large palm, touched gently. Then I feel her hand grasping my heart firmly. I experience immediately a robust rhythmic invigorating massage on my heart, applied by the strong squeezing palm... My mind stops...

The iron grip loosens little by little... The pain soothes, recedes… My arm moves, my hand opens up… My breathing becomes normal, liberated… The pain slowly disappears completely… A warm and soothing feeling of peace comes over me… “Mamma!” I whisper… At once, the touching stops and her hand vanishes.

Kathy wakes up at the sound of my voice:

“ Did you call, Mammy?” she asks me.

“ No, darling. It’s nothing. Go back to sleep,” I reassure her.

Agitated, I stay awake until dawn, trying hopelessly to interpret what I have just experienced. It was not a dream! I relive in my mind what had happened that afternoon when I told Kathy that her Grandma Katina had died.... She sobbed for a long time—they adored each other… Then she stopped, dried her wet cheeks with her small palms and exclaimed:

“ We should not cry. She is not dead! She is alive! … She lives, now!”

I was stunned… “Darling, you don’t understand. She is really dead. She won’t come back from the hospital. She is with God.”

“ NO! YOU don’t understand! Don’t you see? In order to live, to really live, we all have to die first!”

I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to explain Kathy’s words. Where did Kathy get them and how could she understand their meaning? These words were like a ‘divine impulse’, a healing balm to my aching heart, although I did not grasp then their full impact.

Now, Kathy’s words hammer in my mind: “She is not dead; she is alive!” Is it possible that not only my mother’s spirit is alive, but that she can physically manifest herself in order to help me, her only child? And could my illiterate mother give me a life-saving open heart massage? Tired, I push away the thought of any ‘divine intervention’ and I throw myself in the trap of reason. “It must have been a hallucination, or a creation of my subconscious,” I tell myself.


A few days later, at my husband’s insistence, I get a complete cardiac check-up at the Montreal Heart Institute. After many tests, X-rays, ultrasounds and echo-cardiograms, the head surgeon of the Institute announces that my heart is in perfect condition.

“ You have the heart of a twenty-year old athlete,” he tells me. “No sign of any chronic ailment, birth defect or anomaly.”

For a moment I am speechless. Then I explain to him how, because of heart trouble depicted in past X-rays, I had not been even eligible for life insurance for the past ten years.

He looks at me in disbelief.

“I don’t know what the X-rays showed before. I did not see the X-rays… But now, you have absolutely nothing! Whatever you had is not here anymore! No trace of it!” he says with authority. He adds: “I will give you a report, and no company will deny you a life insurance policy.” (I do have a life insurance policy now.)

This confirmation makes me realize that my mother’s hand was not a hallucination. It was not a creation of my subconscious. It was something outside of my personal control. It was my mother’s doing! With the help of God. Katina is not dead. She is alive!


Erato Sahapoglu is a Canadian of Greek Origin, born in Istanbul, Turkey. She lives in Brossard, Quebec, with her engineer husband. This is Erato’s third appearance as a contributor to Spinetingler Magazine. Her story, Melek, is also included in our print anthology.

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