It was late in the afternoon of September 23, 1986. I was just two years old, and my dad had just taken off on a routine training exercise in his F-4 Phantom Marine Corps fighter jet. He was flying over the Atlantic Ocean, not far from our home in Beaufort, South Carolina, when his F-4 crashed into another F-4 during a dog-fight maneuver. Both my dad, Captain Charles Kelly Castleberry, and his navigator, Major Christopher Brammer, were never seen again. Search and Rescue crews scoured the Eastern seaboard for days, but they were never able to locate my father.
Ever since that day, I have had a special place in my heart for the “fatherless” of this world, especially those who have experienced loss through traumatic circumstances. This ache for the fatherless was stirred up again two nights ago, as the news aired the horrific events concerning the giant fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. I was distraught to learn that a crew of firemen had been at the site, trying to put out the fire when the blast exploded. Two thoughts immediately came to my mind: 1) Unless there had been a miracle, the firemen on site would not have survived the blast; 2) Those firemen were never again going to see their wives and children on this earth. It may have been a “routine” call for these trained professionals, but in an instant, it became a deadly tragedy. The lives of their loved ones would never be the same. Their children are left, clinging to every possible memory of their fathers, but they will never again, on this side of eternity, see their dads’ faces or be able to physically talk to them.
Losing a father is unspeakably horrific for all children. The son has lost the one person primarily responsible to train him to be a man, and to help him through that process. The daughter has lost her provider, protector, and teacher of being cherished and valued as a woman. I believe this is one reason why God has such a special, tender heart for the fatherless and the widows of the world. David, by the Holy Spirit, writes in Psalm 68:5, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”
I have experienced this special fatherly love by God in numerous ways. I have genuinely felt God’s special hand of providence guiding me throughout my life, and he really has been a father to me. One way that he has shown this love is through another godly man, Preston Abbott, who was sent to be my earthly dad four years after my first dad died. Another provision from my Heavenly Father is the amazing legacy of my first father, Kelly. God enabled my father to do some extraordinary things in his short twenty-six years on earth. These have shaped and will continue to shape me for the rest of my life.
Three Ways My Father’s Legacy Has Impacted Me
What I’ve learned From My Father About Leaving a Godly Legacy
As we consider the legacies that parents leave for their families, please join with me in praying for the children of the firemen that lost their lives two nights ago. Pray that God would use the legacy of their fathers for good and that they would come to faith in Christ. Also pray that we, like Paul, would be able to say at the end of our lives, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17).
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