Faith Helps Business Owner Navigate Pandemic

Woman facing financial crisis says her spiritual practice has helped her through the hardship

Kevin Hogan

NEW YORK—She’s a mother of three youngsters and runs an antique furniture business in New York City. Out of her Queens apartment, she rents a private room as an AirBnB superhost. But she and her husband lost their sources of income as the economy shuttered due to the pandemic. Yet one cornerstone in her life is helping her overcome the crisis—her faith in a spiritual practice.

Virginia Neville decided to flee the city and spend time with her parents in rural Quebec. She knew there was a moratorium on her rent so she couldn’t be evicted, but she was still concerned about whether her next few months’ rent would be pardoned.

“With the crisis, obviously, almost all of our income stopped coming in. We were selling a very small fraction of the furniture that we had been selling, and obviously, AirBnB completely died,” Neville told NTD.

“In order for us to pay our rent for these next few months, we would have to pretty much use all of our savings to do that. So, we're in a pretty tight place,” she said.

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy, with Goldman Sachs predicting a 34 percent drop in Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter.
Over 3 million Americans are filing for unemployment, and the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank estimates that 47 million Americans will lose their jobs, with some economists expecting that to happen this month.

Neville was already living week-to-week and had limited savings before the crisis. The city has halted evictions, but she is unsure whether or not her rent will be pardoned.

However, Neville has a slightly different outlook on her problems than many people. She views difficulties as a way for her to grow spiritually, an idea held by many faiths and philosophies including the mind-body practice called Falun Dafa or Falun Gong.

“When we suffer, when we endure hardship, we eliminate karma, and we gain something whereby we can return to a divine state,” Neville said.

Virginia Neville (R) meditates in Astoria Park in Astoria, N.Y., in October 2019. (Courtesy of Virginia Neville)
Virginia Neville (R) meditates in Astoria Park in Astoria, N.Y., in October 2019. (Courtesy of Virginia Neville)

“I haven't actually had that much fear towards the virus in relation to the virus for myself. I know that my immune system is very strong, and I'm not really that scared of getting sick. But I am still taking precautions because of my family.”

Neville said the health effects of the practice were noticeable and a good reason for others to give it a try.

Falun Dafa is an ancient Chinese spiritual discipline that consists of five exercises which includes a sitting meditation. The heart of the practice is in the mind, so to speak. Practitioners are guided to look inside and cultivate themselves according to truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.

Falun Dafa was introduced in China in 1992 and became immensely popular in a short period of time. By 1999 there were an estimated 100 million Chinese people practicing, a number that exceeded membership in the Chinese Communist Party. In 1999 the regime began a systematic persecutory campaign meant to eradicate the practice. To this day, however, there are Falun Dafa practitioners throughout China.

For Neville, it was a clear path to take up the practice.

“The exercises are very easy to learn. They're easy to do,” Neville said. “And read the book, read ‘Zhuan Falun’and give it a try. And I really believe that it can help, and it can protect you.”

‘Something Worked Some Kind of Magic’

Neville’s mother, Cathy Brochet, took a nasty fall in the parking lot of a pharmacy in Sherbrooke, Quebec, last Thursday. She smashed into a trailer hitch and the fall left her bloodied with a black eye, and busted several of her teeth causing “extreme tooth pain.”

The police arrived and took her to the hospital. At the emergency reception, she explained to the staff that her daughter had just come to visit her from the United States. They asked, “From where exactly?” After she told them New York City, they put her in a cubicle that she likened to a jail cell.

Brochet wondered if she was in the area with people infected with the virus. And then the doctors entered, all wearing personal protective equipment from head to foot in order to enter her cell. They performed some X-rays on her and when they found no broken bones, told her to go home. She was still in pain.

It was 2 a.m. on Friday morning when her husband drove her home from the hospital. At this point, she started to feel nauseous. She vomited when she returned home and the pain grew more intense. She started to lose her strength.

Neville called the 8-1-1 healthline and the operator told her if ice doesn’t help soothe the pain, she needs to go back to the hospital. Her daughter suspected she might have internal bleeding.

Her husband drove her to a different hospital. When she arrived, she answered the staff’s questions and told them her daughter's roommate in New York had been tested and did not have COVID-19.

The staff brought her to the Emergency Intensive Care ward and put her in a booth with curtains separating her from the others. She suspected she was in the presence of the “poor virus patients,” which was later confirmed.

The doctors tested her blood, scanned her head and abdomen, gave her an ultrasound, and told her she needed to see a specialist.

A cardiologist came to talk to her, but the medical team was unsure of her diagnosis. Brochet wondered if she had a heart attack, if it was a blood clot in her lungs, or if her heart was bleeding from when she crashed on the pavement. With each sip of water her stomach pain worsened, so she suspected that the problem may be with her stomach.

Her symptoms were inconsistent with any single diagnosis. The doctors decided to do another test on her in which they inject dye into her veins to see if an artery is blocked.

As they prepared for the procedure, a doctor came rushing in and told them to stop, saying a technician has found internal bleeding. Since internal bleeding is a side effect of the dye procedure, they cannot take the risk of making it worse.

They took her to the coronary ward and kept her under observation. They gave her half a gram of the narcotic dilaudid to relieve the pain, but it made her nauseous as she is intolerant to morphine and its derivatives. They switched to Tylenol, but it didn’t relieve her pain.

Later that evening, Brochet felt that she was “slipping away.” She said, “when you’re in so much pain, you’re more accepting that death could come.”

At around 8:30 p.m., she was in a daze when her daughter called her, as no visitors were allowed during the pandemic.

Neville read to her some of the Fa, or teachings, from the book “Zhuan Falun” over the phone. And on the same phone call, her husband told her to repeat words that Brochet herself “could but recognize as eternal wisdom,” she wrote in a Facebook post describing the chain of events.

He told her to repeat the words “Falun Dafa is good,” and “truthfulness, compassion, forbearance is good,” silently, deep down inside.

Brochet said when you are in a situation like that, “you’re ready to almost do anything.” So, she repeated the words a few times, as much as she could.

At 9:30 p.m. the night nurse came in and gave her an anti-nausea medication followed by a quarter gram of dilaudid.

At around 2 a.m. the next morning, she awoke, which meant that she had slept—“Oh glorious sleep!” she wrote. She was having a hard time falling asleep through the whole ordeal.

But when she awoke she “could barely feel but a small remnant” of the pain. "Something worked some kind of magic,” She told NTD.

She wondered what healed her. Was it the narcotic? Was it “the healing power of the Fa?” she wrote. Was it that her body healed itself?

“I guess this will remain forever a mystery to me, probably,” she said.

When she woke up, the pain that was at 100 percent earlier, went down to 2 percent or just about zero, she said. “Oh my gosh, oh, and then I tried to move a little. Wow! There is no more pain in my abdomen!” Brochet said.

“I’m somewhat spiritual, but I’m not going to say that I think it was the Falun Gong, but I will say that I think that it might have been that. I'm a bit of an agnostic on things like that. So I give it the benefit of the doubt,” she said.

“Yeah, just magic, because they didn't do anything more other than just give me that dilaudid. And then all of a sudden, five hours or so, four and a half hours later. Wow!” she said.

Brochet is now finishing up the last of her two-week self-quarantine that she is obliged to do after coming out of the hospital. She is scheduling a dentist appointment to fix her teeth that were damaged in the fall—something she wanted to do during her quarantine but wasn’t able to.

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