我好友的祖母若要回到位於南越西部 Cay-Lay 省的家，必須搭乘幾乎一天半的長途巴士，才能探視她的胞妹，她每次回來後，總是告訴我的好友這個相同的故事。巴士由 Vung-Tau 市出發──此市又名 Cap Saint Jacque，早在十九世紀初，法國人就慣於這麼叫它了；中途經過她所住的城市，駛向首都西貢（現名胡志明市）；再以將近一天的時間，才到達南越的西部。每當經過 Ben-Luc 橋時，司機會停留十五到二十分鐘給乘客拍攝此地的立墳，他也會告訴他們，有關於這個立墳的故事。
This story was emailed to me by a close friend of mine from Canada. It is a true story which her grandmother told her over and over again when she was young. The story is about “instant karma.” Her family is Buddhist and they believed in the principle explained in the Sutra which states, “To those who oppose their parents, being killed in natural disasters will be the retribution.”
Her grandmother had to travel for almost a day and a half on the long distance bus to visit her younger sister in Cay-Lay province, in the Western part of South Vietnam. She told her that same story every time she came back home. The bus departed at the station in Vung-Tau city, which was also named “Cap Saint Jacque” by the French in the early 1900’s. She travelled from her city to Saigon, the capital city, which is now renamed “Ho Chi Minh City”. Then it took almost a day to get to the Western part of the South Vietnam. Each time that the bus passed the Ben-Luc Bridge, the bus driver would stop there for about 15 to 20 minutes, so that the passengers could take photographs of the “standing grave”; then he would tell them the story about the “standing grave”.
The story started like this. There was a young widow, who lived in the rice field in the province called Cay-Lay. Her husband died a long time ago, but she did not want to remarry because she loved her son so much and worried that a stepfather would interfere with the relationship between mother and son. So she decided to give up almost everything for the sake of her only son. As a single mother, she had to work extra hard to raise him, to provide all his needs and to take good care of him. When he grew up, she took all of her savings and sent him to the city for his studies. She always thought his success in the future would be hers as well. She was illiterate and knew only how to write her name, but she always wished for her son to have a beautiful future. After he graduated, he got married and came back home to live with his old mother in the house on the rice field. He and his wife rode a motorcycle to go to work in town, while the old lady stayed home to cook, to clean, to do all of the housework and to take care of five grandchildren.
One day, tragedy struck! While the old lady was busy with cooking in the kitchen, the five kids ran and played outside. One naughty grandchild sneaked out and went to the pond to play by herself. That little girl fell into the pond and drowned, and nobody knew anything about that. After she finished cooking, the old woman started to serve the food for the five grandchildren and found out that one girl was missing. She ran all over in the fields to look for her. Finally, she found that child already dead in the pond. In that instant, the old lady experienced all kinds of emotions and feelings. She was scared, worried, panicked, sad, regretful, deeply sorrowful, and suffering at the loss of the granddaughter.
Her son and the daughter–in-law came home from work a bit late on that day. They had already heard the bad news when they came back to the village. When the son got into the house, he did not bother to see his mother and ask about the incident but went directly to the kitchen, took the butcher knife and started to sharpen it. Hearing that, the mother could sense what was about to happen to her next. Quickly, she walked out of the house. After the son had sharpened his butcher knife, he went around looking for his mother.
The sun was setting behind the mountains and it was getting dark. The old lady ran with all her might and tried to hide somewhere in the rice field. Suddenly her son appeared right behind her. She kept running and helplessly cried for help, but the final moment had come. Her legs felt like jelly and she tripped, and fell down on the ground. She tried to get up but her son was getting close. Raising the butcher knife up high, he rushed over and was about to hack at his mother. Suddenly he felt a chill coming from the ground and his body totally froze in a standing position.
Very frightened and with her eyes closed, the old lady thought she was going to die for sure, but she didn’t know why her son had not taken any action. As she opened her eyes she saw her son standing there frozen like a tree. The old lady was so exhausted and panicked, after going through the most horrible day of her life. She kept staring at her ‘frozen’ son as she slowly staggered up. The she walked step by step toward him. Suddenly he started to cry and begged his mother not to go closer, because the closer she came the more pain he felt. The mother wiped away the tears on her face and looked up in the sky. She prayed “God, please let me know what has happened to my son. I beg you to leave him in peace, and me. I’m willing to die for my grandchild.” It became darker and darker and she could hardly see anything, so she tried to crawl slowly in the direction where her son stood. Again, he screamed in his physical agony and again begged his mother not to get closer.
There was no moment to spare! Using all her energy, the old lady half walked and half ran toward their home to let the daughter-in-law know what had happened. Every member in the family ran to the neighbors for help. Villagers came and tried to push, pull and use every possible maneuver to get him out of the ground, but it was as if his feet had grown roots underground which grew deeper into the ground and so he stood there like a big tree. After many hours’ attempts and having no alternative, people gave up and all went home.
The next morning, the village leader went to report to the police station in town. The police came right away with two police trucks and eight men. They all tried their best to tie a rope around his body, which they attached to a truck in an attempt to pull and remove this man from the ground, but to no avail. After half a day of pulling and pushing, these policemen decided to return to the office to think of other techniques. The rebellious son stood in the middle of the rice field, unable to eat, drink, or move for a few days and ossified in a standing position. After he died, people in the village had to make him an upright grave. Unlike traditional graves where the deceased lie in horizontal position, this grave was in a vertical position. His grave was not too far from the highway, and so bus drivers constantly stopped there for passengers to have a good look at that standing grave while they repeated the story of the standing grave.
Thank you for listening to my story, which was truly told by my best friend’s grandmother. The last time my friend’s grandmother went back to visit her relatives was in 1977 and it was the last time she saw the standing grave. She passed away in 1981.