My life seemed so cruel and meaningless that many times I wanted to die. I was drowning in disease, poverty, and starvation, and in my second suicide attempt I literally tried to drown myself for good. Years later, I came to understand why death failed to take me…
It was going to be my second and final attempt at ending my life. Standing on the edge of a bridge on a cold winter morning, I stared at the still water. My plan was to tie rocks to my sick, emaciated body and jump off to escape my miserable life.
Then I heard a woman weeping. “This life means nothing to me now that you are gone. We will reunite on the other side,” she said, sobbing.
I realized she was about to do the same thing as I was. Then I gasped in horror when it dawned on me that she was my neighbour who had lost her son just a few days previously.
Instinctively I rushed over to stop her.
Could this be the ultimate irony: a person just about to kill herself rushing to stop another person just about to kill herself?
The Least I Could Do
As I tightly hugged and comforted my neighbour, I realized that upon one’s death it’s the people left behind who are crushed by heartbreak and grief. The scars etched on the soul by that kind of anguish can never be erased.
My thoughts turned to my children, both away at college, who grew up without a father. How would they be able to deal with the blow of losing their mother? Although I felt useless, I saw that remaining in this world for their sake was the least I could do, albeit suffering from chronic illness and pain that seemed more than I could bear.
Who would have known that I would later discover the ultimate solution that would bring health, well-being, and purpose into my world for the rest of my life?
I share my story here in hopes that others amid similar suffering and despair can find hope and choose not to end their lives, which are immeasurably precious.
‘A Living Hell’
I grew up amid extreme poverty but still managed to be the kind of young woman others looked up to in my village. Little did I know that after marrying in 1982 I would soon experience the first major trauma in my life.
When my husband suddenly passed away six months after our son was born, it hit me hard and I was thrown into a desperate situation. Money was very scarce and I struggled to make a living while still grieving over my husband’s death. I found it hard to cope and my son was not regularly well fed.
More hardships were to come. I suffered from sciatica. The symptoms started with numbness and tingling of the legs and eventually escalated into constant and severe pain. That was the result of ignoring my condition, since I couldn’t afford any treatment. The pain made me feel as if I was in a living hell.
I sought medical help at a hospital but had to stop the treatments because, instead of getting better, my health deteriorated sharply. I went home in a hopeless state and then became bedridden for good.
My Only Joy Amid the Pain
During the winter, the icy wind whipped against the thin walls of our home and the chill bit into my flesh as I lay immobilized in bed. My distress grew even worse as I watched my young son, then only 7 years old, having to be the one to take responsibility for our household.
My son’s childhood was one that no child should have to endure: a life without a father, in constant fear of losing his mother, and poverty with no end in sight.
We eventually ran out of things to sell, and the food on the table became more and more scarce. That was when I discovered one day that my little boy was secretly working as a porter, carrying heavy loads of coal to earn money.
“Please don’t be upset,” he told me. “You are bedridden now, and I know we have money problems. I carry coal with my friends to earn some extra money. I need to get you better care, otherwise you will never recover.”
His heart was as broad and immense as the sky, and his words made me speechless. Yet I felt as if my heart was being crushed. I felt an enormous sense of guilt for being poor.
First Attempt to Take My Own Life
I questioned God for my suffering. My long list of diseases and conditions included arthritis, osteoarthritis, insomnia, stomach ulcers, and vestibular disorder. There was no cure and the doctors could only prescribe medication to keep me hanging on.
I was like a fish stranded on the shore gasping for breath, terrified of what the future would bring. Losing all hope, I was ready to let go of life and considered death to be the only way out.
In my most desperate moment, I crawled to the edge of my bed and scribbled a message to my sister. “Please look after my son. After I am gone you can sell the house and use the money to take care of him,” I wrote.
I wept bitterly, completely distraught that my son would have to grow up without his mother. But I believed I was a burden and my son should have a decent life.
I grabbed hold of a piece of broken electrical wiring and held it tightly. As the electric current ran through my body, my arms and legs shook. My heartbeat was the last thing I felt.
A Second Child
I woke up in the intensive care unit and learned that my sister had found me and called for help. It seemed I was not yet meant to die.
After this incident, I was determined to start over and try to live for my son’s sake. However, another major development was about to occur in my life.
During my hospital stay, a coworker who was in the middle of a divorce often visited me and showed his feelings for me. Though I tried to avoid him, he kept coming back, and in the end I opened my heart and let him in. I became pregnant as a result.
I had a baby girl, but my relationship with my coworker didn’t last. Thus I was in an even more desperate situation than before. How was I going to be able to feed and raise another child? My guilt grew worse, yet my son never blamed me for what happened.
Ordeals Not Over Yet
During those years, my health continued to decline and my condition became unstable, despite medical treatments of all kinds. I suffered from fainting spells and chest pain and was plagued by severe headaches due to a vestibular disorder. The sciatica created muscle stiffness and limited my mobility. I often had cramps at night and rarely had restful sleep.
Still, somehow we all survived, and my children eventually went off to college in the capital city. They found jobs to put themselves through school, while I sent them what little money I could spare. I was effectively bedridden, too weak to work.
I tried different treatments, both Western and from traditional Chinese medicine, but none were effective. Soon I became penniless and only ate a package of instant noodles a day. It was around that time that I went to the nearby bridge that morning, planning to jump into the water to end my agony.
‘A Book from Heaven’
I never expected that, after my second failed suicide attempt, genuine recovery would soon come my way.
One day, I was walking past the home of a friend who lived nearby. She had earlier confided in me about her son, who was a troubled youth addicted to heroin. Later, she told me he had changed his ways after reading a certain book and taking up the practice that it taught. As I passed her house, a young man waved to me who looked strong and healthy, and I recognized him as my friend’s son.
My friend’s son invited me inside and offered me a book called Zhuan Falun. It was a book from Heaven, he told me earnestly, adding that what helped him change for good was following the teachings outlined in the book.
Zhuan Falun is the main text of a traditional Chinese practice of the Buddha School called Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, he explained. Besides teaching people to improve their moral character by following the principles of “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance,” Falun Dafa includes a set of slow-moving qigong exercises and a sitting meditation.
I was touched by his sincerity and accepted the book. I decided I would make every effort to read it even though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish it due to my ill health.
I lay in bed reading the book, holding it up as best I could. Before I noticed, I had already read 30 pages and my arms weren’t the least bit tired. That was remarkable, as normally I could hardly endure even a small amount of activity for long.
For me, this was extraordinary! I made up my mind to finish reading the book.
More Amazing Changes
More changes were to come. After reading the fifth chapter, I stopped waking up in pain in the night. For many years I had been unable to sleep more than two to three hours a night, but after reading almost halfway through Zhuan Falun I started being able to sleep for four hours or longer.
Due to practicing Falun Dafa, my body finally began healing, and happiness found its way back to me. I woke up rested every morning to enjoy the sunshine and welcome a new day. I gained weight and became stronger, and was soon able to water my flowers and do gardening again. If I hadn’t personally experienced these miracles, I would never have believed they could possibly happen.
My depression lifted, and I started to build up a more positive attitude about life and everything that happened around me. I had been a hot-tempered person before, getting upset easily, but following the teachings in Zhuan Falun changed me. I came to understand that negative thoughts and feelings are like malignant tumors in the mind that are best cut away.
I also began to do the five Falun Dafa exercises. Their benevolent energy flowed through my body while I disciplined my mind and let go of bad thoughts, purifying my heart.
My faith strengthened each time I read the book, which touched me deeply. What I considered in the past to be Heaven’s secrets and God’s will were carefully explained. The book laid out the way for me to become a good person and a better person, and I knew from the bottom of my heart that it was the right path—in fact, the only path—to freeing myself from suffering.
From then on, I gradually overcame the struggles and challenges that had tormented me for decades. Falun Dafa became the light in my heart, guiding me to understand my past suffering and to find meaning and purpose in my life.
The Value of Life
It’s now been two years since I began practicing Falun Dafa. My stomach ulcer has completely healed, as well as 80 percent of my vestibular disorder. The sciatica still flares up at times, but it no longer controls my life. I eat and sleep well and have a healthy weight.
My financial situation has improved as well. I found a job that provides a stable income. I am able to save money now that I don’t have to rely on medication. Also, my children no longer have to worry about me. Indeed, I realize now that Falun Dafa was meant to come into my life at this time, a new path that offers miracles to those who have faith.
Thinking back over my two suicide attempts, when death failed to take me both times, my gratitude is beyond words. I was given the chance to live so that I would eventually come to know Falun Dafa—a truly priceless gift—and to understand the value of life.
I share my story to let more people know about the goodness of Falun Dafa. I am only one among tens of millions of adherents around the world who have experienced this ancient practice’s profound benefits. So I dedicate this story to you in hopes that it can lighten your heart and give you hope—wherever you are on your life’s journey.
Le 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.