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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

A few months too late

Friday, January 22, 2010

This week held an all-too-real reminder of how bittersweet life can be.

As my wife and I make more plans to welcome new life into this world, we had to pause to say goodbye to another.

The deceased man is Miles Kennedy, possibly the warmest, kindest soul you'd ever wish to cross your path. The child my wife carries -- on the coin flip chance it's a boy -- is to be named Miles Jernagan.

The name derives somewhat from history's greatest trumpet player but mostly from a kind-hearted veteran who recently fought his final battle.

Like so many of his generation, Miles Kennedy served his country during World War II. Like way too many of them, he almost didn't come home.

I never heard Miles talk much about his experiences at war, but one story sticks out in my mind. On June 6, 1944, he was to be among the troops landing at Normandy. He didn't quite make it there, though.

Instead, his ship struck a mine, leaving many dead and others injured. Among those badly hurt, Miles said the only thing that saved him from drowning was someone placing a life preserver under his head to keep him afloat.

I don't know the rest of the details or exactly what happened to my friend, only that he ended up with a purple heart.

What I do know, however, is he made it back. I know the man who always came to church with his heart full of love and his jacket pockets full of candy. There were peppermints for the adults and Tootsie Rolls for the children (I often got both, which fits me, I suppose).

I know there are dozens of kids who've been missing their Sunday-morning treats from Miles for the last few weeks.

I think our minister, who during Wednesday's eulogy called Miles "a gentleman and a gentle man," put it best: "Miles never left you empty-handed."

I also know the way he's always made my wife smile. Every time Miles saw her it was never "Hello, Nicole." He'd say, "How's the pretty lady?"

Even with an age difference of nearly 60 years between them, those words always brought a huge smile and blush.

He never left you empty-hearted either.

Remembering Miles like this, given Nicole's pregnancy, is what made the news of his death so difficult. I obviously have no idea yet whether my child will be a boy or girl, but I always wanted Miles to have the chance to see my son. I had pictured the smile on his face the first time "Pretty Lady" and I took our baby home to Williamsport and introduced him to his namesake.

It's a beautiful moment to me, even if it will now only play out in my mind.

I hope the connection can be there anyway.

If this child -- boy or girl -- can be half as joyful, kind and loving as the man I'm remembering, I'll be a proud papa indeed.

Jared Jernagan is the Banner Graphic's assistant editor. He can be contacted at jjernagan@bannergraphic.com.