For years, Hilda Brittain said she and her husband Ralph “lived in the shadow of death.”
As an airman in the Pacific Theater during World War II, Ralph came down with an illness that damaged his brain and led to him having seizures for years. He was given a little more than a decade to live.
Ralph went into a coma and recovered due to what Hilda describes as a miraculous healing.
In the early 1970s, she and Ralph would become heavily involved in ministry, both in foreign countries and in Hickory.
At 96, Hilda still continues her work in ministry. She’s due to speak at a ministry conference in Hickory later this month.
She’s also just finished editing “Have You Ever Seen A Worried Bird?” a book of her husband’s teachings. The book will be available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
In the 1970s, she also wrote her own book about her own testimony called “And There is More.”
Brittain recently sat down to discuss some of the events in her life that have shaped her faith. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On not knowing whether her husband was dead or alive during World War II:
He was bitten by mosquitoes and ran a high fever and damaged his brain. So he was dismissed from the (Army) Air Force after hospitalization.
We thought he was dead. Newspaper printed (that he was) dead. I forgive them, but they didn’t know any better. We didn’t either.
My first child was a baby and it was a sad time until we found out … he was living and that he would be discharged from the Air Force.
So they sent him home by San Francisco, through the Golden Gate Bridge on July 4. At midnight he was under the bridge and he called to tell me he was home.
So for at least six weeks I think … I didn’t know whether he was living or dead because the Red Cross was so activated … and they weren’t as prompt as they would have been.
So it was a real thrill for him to come home.
On seeing her husband come out of a coma in the early 1960s:
So Dr. Davis called me when I was teaching in high school by that time in the business department and told me that Ralph was in a coma … and he was going to send him to the VA at Duke where he could die.
So I’d been prepared heart wise (and) head wise and everything else to expect him to die. So I told him goodbye. He was unconscious.
The week passed and they didn’t call me saying he was dead. I was expecting (it). I’d been hardened to that.
So I went back on Friday.
See, the last I had seen Ralph he was unconscious and pale. Well, when I came around the corner there Ralph was sitting up in bed, smiling, pink, normal.
"I want to tell you something," (he said.) And I mean, you know I’m half shocked.
He said, "I heard steps in the hall and I knew it was Jesus coming."
And he said, "I looked up and Jesus stood beside the door and Hilda, he was beautiful."
"And he looked at me and he said, 'Ralph, I’ve come to heal you and send you into all the world.’”
And he said he came over, stood at the bottom of the bed … put his hands on the rail and looked out and said, "I’m calling you to preach my word into all the world."
And then he walked around the bed, laid hands on him and healed him of course and smiled at him.
He said, "He smiled at me and then he walked through the window, just disappeared."
And he said, "I’ve asked them to let me come home and then I’m going to study and we’re going to go into all the world and preach the gospel."
Well, that’s exactly what we did.
On the Billy Graham Crusade she attended in 1958:
We were acquainted with Billy Graham by news about him and he was coming to Charlotte.
We loved the Lord. We talked to him but we’d never been involved in anything this big before and we wanted to go.
You know, when you … believe in something you want to be sure that you really believe it and when Billy gave his invitation, we all got up … and went to them and got saved.
And then they put us in a class for a year. We took lessons for a whole year on the scriptures. They would send us booklets and we’d fill them out.
On her first book:
I would say the Lord impressed me to write this book ("And there is More”) because we were giving our testimonies and this is full of testimonies.
It was just to tell people, "Hey, don’t get stuck in the rut. Have ears to hear what the Lord is saying to you."
Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.