Last trip home: Woman visits her old home for her final wish

Ruth Rayburn’s fondest memories are in her yellow house in Beech Island — a small, unincorporated town in Aiken County near the Georgia state line.

When Ruth moved there with her husband, Cecil, in 1960, he had just gotten a job at The Augusta Chronicle.

Ruth would move anywhere for Cecil — she married him when she was just 18 after they met while both were working at Greenwood Mills.

Her job was to run a lapping machine, and Cecil worked in the mill’s shop. If she got behind, management would send Cecil over to help. Eventually, he started looking for excuses to help the pretty brunette girl who made sure the materials were polished.

Not long after they were married, they started a family. Ruth adored her three children, and Cecil worked hard so she could stay at home with them.

Ruth’s daughter, Drenda Butler, remembers their little yellow house as the center of the neighborhood — the kids down the street would always gather there to play games.

“I just feel so content when I go in there, and I sit in the living room where daddy used to sit,” Drenda said. “I go in there and I have to sit every time, I’m just so content. It’s got this contentment in the house. Daddy and Mama love pictures — they’ve got pictures hanging all over the walls.”

When Drenda thinks back on her childhood, she remembers her parents being madly in love and close to God. Cecil loved to see Ruth crack a grin — often, he would take her on spontaneous trips to the mountains, which they did more frequently after he retired.

“He was so good to her,” Drenda said.

In the center of the house is an old piano — Cecil bought it one day for Ruth, and although she couldn’t play, she liked to pick at the keys with little tunes, and he loved to listen to her.

When Ruth thinks of home, she thinks of that yellow house, although she hasn’t lived there for three years.

In 2015, Cecil died from congestive heart failure, among other health complications, at age 91. Ruth, who now has dementia and is 94, had to move in with Drenda in Greenwood.

She never got over Cecil’s death. She holds a photo of him close to her heart every day — her eyes mist up when she talks about him.

“That’s my darling. I miss him,” Ruth said through tears. “He was a good husband.”

Cecil fought to stay alive for Ruth — he worried about what would happen to her if he weren’t there.

“He knew he was getting so sick,” Drenda said. “He didn’t want to leave her not being taken care of, and I promised him, I said, ‘Daddy, as long as I’m able to, I’ll try to do the best that I can to take care of her.’”

Now bedridden, Ruth, too, has congestive heart failure. Drenda still takes care of the house and property in Beech Island when she can.

“She always tells me every time I go, ‘Kiss my home for me,’” Drenda said.

Caris Healthcare, a hospice center in Greenwood that helps care for Ruth, has a program called “Three Most Important Things” where they ask patients what three things would make their care better.

For Ruth, it was only to visit her yellow home one last time.

When Caris reached out to several transportation services, a woman from Medshore heard her story and volunteered to drive Ruth down on her day off in a van capable of transporting her.

For one week, Ruth gets to stay in the home where she and Cecil built a life, and a lifetime of memories.

Even after three years, she still kisses every photo of Cecil she comes across.

“He’s my darling,” Ruth said.

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