The killers shot my grandfather three times and then, when he was near death, cut off his head.
Then they drove an iron hook into his chest and dragged his body along the ground for about 100 meters before throwing him into a hole that had been dug for him.
After the killing, they confiscated all of my family’s land and belongings and left us with nothing, not even a bowl of rice.
This occurred in 1954 in Vietnam, when I was just 3 years old.
My grandfather was a landowner and had a successful business in the fish sauce industry. He was a kind and honest man who always treated others with generosity, including his employees and their relatives. Yet he was denounced and killed with such cruelty simply for being a landlord, a victim of the so-called “land reform” in North Vietnam from 1953 to 1956.
After my mother told me the tragic story of how my grandfather died, the horrific image of his violent murder haunted me for decades.
My family’s grief and suffering continued long after my grandfather’s death, as people in our community treated us coldly and basically shunned us. We lived in poverty and my growing-up years were filled with pain and misery. Later on, various diseases started to plague me.
But when I was 61 years old, heaven finally smiled on me by bringing me a great gift that led me to a path of health and happiness.
I’m grateful that I’ve been able to live a fulfilling life free of illness for the last five years, and I believe how I achieved that is meant to be shared with as many people as possible. In telling my story, I hope that those who read it will also have an opportunity to benefit from this gift that has enhanced my life in unimaginable ways.
Loss of my Father
After the horrendous loss of my grandfather, my mother taught me to be a good student so that I would be able to escape from our agonizing circumstances.
Little did she expect that tragedy would soon strike again. My father died of poisoning when I was 10 years old, leaving my mother alone to raise me and my younger sister. But she persevered, working her fingers to the bone to make a living to support us.
I was determined to follow her advice so that I could build a better future for all of us. During high school, I woke up at 3 a.m. every morning in order to arrive at school on time. The roundtrip was 25 kilometers, and I walked barefoot since we didn’t have the money to buy shoes.
In winter, there were days when the weather was extremely cold. I would be frozen to the core, but it didn’t stop me from walking to school, never forgetting that my mother also went without shoes as she worked and scrimped to provide for us.
Blocked from College
In my final year of high school, my mother managed to rent a room for me in a house closer to the school. This halved the distance I had to walk each day, from 25 to 12 kilometers.
The owners of the house also provided me with daily meals, and I ate the same food that they ate. They were so poor themselves that some days our food consisted of just coarse powder pounded from roasted rice, and I had to drink water with it to avoid choking.
Despite such meager living conditions, I excelled in my studies and graduated with the second-highest mark in my province. However, my dream of attending college was dashed when I was informed that I would not be accepted because I was the grandchild of a landlord.
All my hopes came tumbling down, and I was too devastated to even see my friends. I had no choice but to suppress my feelings and go in a different direction. To make a living, I enrolled in teacher training and became a secondary school teacher.
Losing My Mother
Tragedy struck again when my mother fell ill and passed away. She had remarried at age 40 and then died only 10 months after giving birth to my half-brother.
The most regretful and heartbreaking thing of all was that I was unable to take care of her while she was sick, and even had no chance to see her one last time before she died.
I was 23 years old at the time, a young teacher married for just over a year. Suddenly, the responsibility fell on me to support my 18-year-old sister and raise my infant brother.
Plagued with Illnesses
Perhaps it was due to the ongoing poverty and mental wounds I endured that illness eventually began manifesting in my body. This started soon after I turned 50, in 2001.
A few years later, in 2005, multiple diseases began to plague me at once, including arthritis, heart issues with severe chest pain, stomach problems, and insomnia. I had to take five kinds of medication daily and scarcely a month went by that I didn’t have to go to the hospital. Our family’s debt burden climbed and more illnesses struck, with no relief in sight.
Then later that year, I learned that my 24-year-old daughter had come down with a serious illness. It was a particularly devastating blow that worsened my suffering.
I realized that poverty was not the most frightening thing, but rather emotional torment. Having experienced both, my pain and despair accumulated to become as high as a mountain.
Amid countless tears and sleepless nights, I often wanted to die to escape my misery. Yet I was not meant to die. It even happened twice that I was almost hit by an approaching car but both times the driver somehow stopped in time.
A Ray of Hope
It wasn’t until over a decade of living with my many illnesses that a door opened offering me a promise of a bright, new way forward. I just needed to decide to walk through.
In 2012, an old friend told me about a practice that helped people acquire a healthy mind and body as well as upgrade their moral values. At first I only listened and didn’t believe him, thinking it was too good to be true.
What he told me seemed too miraculous. It was about a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline from ancient times called Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, that consists of meditation, qigong exercises, and teachings centered on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance.
He told me about how someone from his village who was paralyzed was able to get up and walk after reading Zhuan Falun, the main book of teachings of Falun Dafa. Then there was a patient whose cancer disappeared, and so on. But it was not that this practice focused on treating illness, he said, explaining that the key was to improve one’s moral character by following the teachings, which in turn leads to many issues getting solved.
In the end, his earnestness convinced me to give Falun Dafa a try. And that was in fact the first time in my life that I experienced good fortune.
Great changes to both my mind and body came about after I began following the principles taught in Zhuan Falun and doing the Falun Dafa exercises and meditation. The book resolved all the questions I had about my life and all the trials and tribulations I had gone through. My bitter tears and the resentment in my heart melted away, along with my hatred for those who had harmed me and my family. And I stopped thinking about death every night.
In addition, the illnesses that had been making me so miserable disappeared as well. I no longer suffered from chest pains, and the arthritis, stomach disease, and insomnia also disappeared.
Faith in Goodness
Recently I had the opportunity to return to my hometown and visit my old junior high school as well as the secondary school where I taught during my last years as a teacher before retirement.
I told my old colleagues and friends about how Falun Dafa transformed my life, and everyone was happy for me. I was also happy for them in return, because many of them wanted to learn the practice and experience its goodness for themselves.
I have enjoyed five years now with no health problems, and I have come to understand many things about life that I didn’t know before. I’m grateful that my life’s destiny included practicing Falun Dafa, enabling me to recover from illness and finally live a peaceful and fulfilling life.
My wish for others is that they will not limit themselves to the knowledge they have acquired but be open to new discoveries. I hope others will have faith in the goodness inherent in traditional values that have guided people since ancient times. Once I embarked on my path guided by Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance, that was when my life entered a new phase and led me toward the bright future awaiting me.
Pham Thi Lan lives in Vietnam.
Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice of mind and body that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as a way to improve health and moral character and attain spiritual wisdom.
For more information about the practice, visit www.falundafa.org. All books, exercise music, resources, and instructions are available free of charge.