For Dana Canedy, it was a classic case of opposites attracting. She was a hard-charging New York Times reporter, her fiance 1st Sgt. Charles King a career military man of few words but unshakeable convictions.
In 2005, Canedy gave birth to their son Jordan, while King was on combat patrol in Iraq's notorious Triangle of Death. Jordan was already 4 months old the first time he met his father, when King was home on a two-week leave from the Army.
Six weeks later, King, 48, was killed by a roadside bomb on an isolated road near Baghdad.
"As one of his soldiers put it to me," Canedy recalls, "his spirit was trying to stay with us but his body just couldn't. I just wish I could have been there to put my arms around him and tell him it was OK to go."
Today, Jordan is an active 2-and-a-half year old whose room is full of toys and mementos of his father, including a pair of King's shoes with his socks still inside.
"One of the things I like about the shoes is you can still see the outline of his foot," Canedy says. "And I can feel it. If I close my eyes, I can feel his foot in there."
Although King is no longer with them, Canedy strives every day to make sure Jordan can feel his father's presence. Thankfully, she has a little help from King himself, a life story that Denzel Washington has optioned for a possible movie.
Canedy says King understood the risks of war and what it could mean for his family, so he left behind a journal for his son, filled with a father's wisdom. In some ways, Canedy believes that King wrote his words with the awareness that he might not make it back to his family. "I think there were many days he felt that way," she says.
Inside, King addresses the issues Jordan is not yet old enough to ask about: intolerance, faith and even his experiences in combat.
"It is all right for boys to cry," one passage reads. "It's not fair to judge someone by the content of their skin," reads another. King even gives simple advice, like where to hide money on vacation -- "in your shoe or a secret compartment."
King was committed to completing the journal while serving in Iraq but after the death of one of his soldiers months before his own death, King sent the journal home.
Raising Jordan With a Journal
Canedy is raising Jordan in New York City on her own but, she says, it's as though she has King by her side at every step.
"Imagine if this journal didn't exist," she says. "I would be feeling my way through trying to raise my son on my own, and I honestly feel as though his father is here helping me because of this book."
She looks forward to the time when Jordan will be old enough to take wisdom from the journal. "I wish he could have had the moments down the line where he would watch his father shave or play baseball with him," she said. "But, thank God, he will know his father in ways that a lot of boys and young men don't, because of this journal. He will know his father's love, and I am just so grateful for that."
And while the journal was intended for his son, King's words have proved an immeasurable gift to his fiancee, as well.
"Oh, it's incredible," Canedy says. "I love him more now, and understand him more now than I did when he was alive."
The journal has kept King's legacy alive and taught Canedy the importance of reminding your family how much you love them.
"Speaking to your family, expressing your love, certainly for soldiers in a war zone, but same for police officers, firefighters and just ordinary people getting in their car going to work every day," Canedy says. "Because you just never know when your time is up, and one of the lessons from this is you can determine what your legacy will be and what the people you love will remember about you."
Dana Canedy has written a book about her life with 1st Sgt. Charles King and his journal. Click here to read an excerpt from "A Journal for Jordan."