Friends help care for mum of high school buddy who died
She lost a son, but gained seven.
A Chinese woman has been living by herself since 2004 when she lost her only son to cancer.
But Ms Sheng Ru Zhi's life has been far from lonely as her son's seven friends have been taking turns to care for her.
Over the past 11 years, the friends have grown up – Some have graduated from university, some have moved to other provinces in China, and some have married and have had children.
But they have always found time for Ms Sheng, whom they call godmother.
How they became 'brothers'
Ms Sheng's son, Zhang Kai, met these seven friends in high school in 1999.
The group of boys became extremely close and began calling each other 'brother'. They often had meals at Mr Zhang's apartment and found his mother to be a warm and good-natured person.
Mr Fu Xiao Zheng, who lived only 2km away from Mr Zhang, often went over to his home to play.
When Mr Fu got a girlfriend after high school, he even showed her to Mr Zhang's mother before his own.
Diagnosed with cancer
In 2001, during his first year at university, Mr Zhang was diagnosed with leukaemia.
When he was hospitalised in 2003, his friends visited him often. And when he died in 2004, they continued to visit Ms Sheng.
"Not long after Zhang Kai left us, a few of us thought we should visit his home frequently and take care of his mother," said Mr Fu.
He added that it was a natural thing to do, and that they have continued to do so for the past 11 years.
'Say the word and we'll be there'
They have been taking turns to spend Chinese New Year with her.
Their promise to her? "If you need us, just say the word and we'll be there."
Mr Fu said his older daughter has brought much joy to Ms Sheng, who treats the girl like her granddaughter.
He said: "Godmother is getting older. My daughter is about to start middle school. I plan to let her stay with godmother so that she will have someone to care for her at night."
Ms Sheng said the seven are "like my own flesh and blood".
She told a local newspaper that they changed her life after her son's death.
"I was alone at that time," she said. "They came into my home and filled it with life again."
What the seven friends have done for Ms Sheng over the years:
During a snow storm in 2008, Mr Li Fei bought groceries and delivered them to Ms Sheng, reported Shanghaiist.
He told her: "It's very slippery outside so stay indoors. If these groceries aren't enough, call me and I'll deliver some more."
During an earthquake in 2008, Mr Fu went to Ms Sheng's apartment to get her.
She spent the night with Mr Fu's family in their car, reported Shanghaiist.
In 2012, the government relocated Ms Sheng to a different building.
The seven friends pooled together 40,000 yuan (S$8,700) for renovations.
During these three months, Ms Sheng stayed with Mr Fu.
Ms Sheng lives in Hefei city in Anhui Province. Mr Li lives in the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang.
Despite the distance, Mr Li still cares deeply for Ms Sheng and bought her an air-conditioner in 2014.
He gets his wife and daughter to visit her.
In 2014, Ms Sheng fractured her right leg. Mr Fu took her into his home for a month and cared for her.
He visits his parents once a month, but visits Ms Sheng at least once a week with his wife and children.