'Til death do them part ... but she's not ready yet 

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-05-18 08:05
Large Medium Small

BEIJING - Onlookers could be forgiven for thinking that the affectionate woman tending the seriously ill man in hospital was his wife.

'Til death do them part ... but she's not ready yet 

Zeng Lingcui is an affectionate woman who persists in taking care of her ill ex-husband even though she is remarried. Provided to China Daily

She stayed by his side for 20 days, used her savings to buy him medicine, making sure he has what he needs - definitely not what you would expect from an ex-spouse.

"We didn't divorce because of any fights. He is a good man, but he is sick," said Zeng Lingcui.

Despite being divorced for six years - and having remarried in that time - Zeng rushed to the hospital to help him during Chinese New Year, leaving her new husband and son at home.

She met her ex-husband 23 years ago in Yichang, Hubei province, when he was a migrant worker at a construction site, and Zeng cooked meals for them.

Zeng was 19 then, and was attracted to the tall, neat and somewhat older-looking man named Ji Zhengyu."I didn't know until after we were married that he was 36," Zeng said.

She moved to his hometown after they were married, and she gave birth to a daughter in 1991 and a son in 1997.

But Ji had suffered from rheumatic arthritis for years, as well as skin ulcers on his legs, which were caused by injuries on the construction site.

He hadn't been able to work since their son was born, and Zeng became the sole breadwinner in the family.

Yet Ji was reluctant to be a burden on his wife and children, and proposed a divorce. Over Zeng's opposition, Ji completed the procedures for divorce in 2005.

When Zeng met her current husband, she set down several conditions about her ex-husband.

"I told him that I will help Ji with farmwork and housework, that he doesn't have to pay the children's living expenses, and I will give all my salary to him because he has no income," Zeng said.

Surprisingly, her soon-to-be new husband accepted the terms - and so Zeng became responsible for two households.

The farmland of the two families is about 350 sq m, and Zeng takes care of it herself, spraying pesticide, pulling weeds and spreading manure, all the while shuttling between two homes.

Before the Spring Festival last year, Zeng's new husband got a phone call from Ji's neighbor, saying he was pale, twitching and could not talk. Her new husband called a taxi and sent Ji to hospital.

When Zeng hurried there from work in the night, Ji was lying in an intensive care unit. The inflammation in his legs had led to lockjaw, and he was in critical condition.

"I saw him twitching all over, foaming at the mouth, totally comatose. The doctor said his brows were motionless, his eyes could not open, and his situation might become even more dangerous," Zeng said.

Zeng decided to pour out her savings, 12,000 yuan ($1,800), for her ex-husband's surgery.

"I only wanted to convince him that as long as I am alive, he will also have his future," Zeng said.

"My new husband is a good man as well. If he wasn't magnanimous enough, I wouldn't be able to look after two families. This is also Ji's good fortune," Zeng said.

Ji survived the crisis and has returned home. Zeng began work in a machine shop in her village to better serve the two families.

"I go to work every day, including the past May Day holiday, and work three shifts. But I go to Ji's home at least twice a week," Zeng said.

Yet despite a road filled with hardships, Zeng hasn't given up hope.

"I have to persist in spite of hardships. Only in this way can I ensure him a chance of living, and both of the two families will be happy," Zeng said.