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The Remarkable True Story Behind ‘A Journal for Jordan’

Author Dana Canedy on how she knows God was watching the filming of the new movie directed by Denzel Washington. 

Chanté Adams and Michael B. Jordan in 'A Journal for Jordan' directed by Denzel Washington

When Denzel Washington’s newest film, A Journal for Jordan, hit theaters this Christmas, it captivated audiences with its heartwarming message and compelling story. And perhaps the most remarkable part is that it is based on true events. 

Dana Canedy is a journalist, author, and publishing executive who wrote the 2008 book A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor about her life with her fiancée, Sergeant Charles Monroe King. When King was deployed to Iraq in 2005 he started a journal, which he filled with advice and stories, for their infant son, Jordan, just in case King didn’t come home. Unfortunately, King was killed in combat in October 2006.  

Right before his death, King sent the journal to Canedy, who held onto it so Jordan could know his father—a man of courage, compassion, and faith. Canedy talked with Guidepost.org about her relationship with King and their inspiring story. 

Dana Canedy (Photo: Eileen Barroso/Columbia University)

When Canedy first met King, it was not love at first sight. The two came from very different backgrounds – she was an accomplished writer focused on her career, and King was a more carefree person, devoted to the military. Canedy initially pushed King away because she was convinced it wouldn’t work. But King always came back.  

“We were meant to be,” Canedy said. “I could not have known all of that, and that’s just by God’s amazing grace. I was meant to be Jordan’s mother and to be there at the end of Charles’ life. I was meant to tell this story.” 

Telling that story to even more people was made possible when it was announced her book would be going to the big screen. Canedy said she was thrilled when Denzel Washington came on as director. “He brought his sense of spirituality and his belief in God to this,” she said. Washington prayed with the cast and crew before some scenes and never lost sight of the fact that the story he was telling was real.  

Neither did Michael B. Jordan or Chanté Adams, who play King and Canedy. The first day she was on set, Canedy brought King’s actual journal, as well as his dog tags. Jordan and Adams were both intensely moved by them. “It was important to me that they see that there is a real Charles and a real Jordan,” she said. “You see in their performances a profound sense that they’re honoring Charles and his legacy.”  

READ MORE: Michael B. Jordan shares how his upbringing shaped his life.

There was even a hint at God’s hand at work during the production of the film. Early one morning, Washington went to Arlington National Cemetery to scout a location for a scene at King’s grave (King is actually buried in Cleveland, Ohio). 

According to Canedy, Washington often looked for signs from beyond during the filming process. After no luck in finding the right spot, Washington paused to ask King to show him where the scene should be filmed. The director then looked up to see three deer sitting calmly under a tree nearby. He took it as his sign. But when he called Canedy to tell her what happened, she was shocked. She told him the last time she and Jordan had visited King’s grave in Cleveland, they’d seen three deer sitting peacefully under a nearby tree. “Denzel didn’t know about that until I told him,” she said. “We both just laughed and said, ‘Yep, God’s got us.’” 

It was God that got Canedy through her grief after losing King. She recalled that one day before King’s funeral, everything hit her harder than ever before. She’d just returned to her Manhattan apartment after signing paperwork at King’s military base. “I was walking in a fog,” she said. “Jordan was only six months old at the time, and I remember thinking how heavy he felt. Everything was heavy. Grief is so physical. It was hard to breathe, and everything physically hurt.” 

As she walked through her front door, Canedy wasn’t sure if she could keep going. She called out to God for a sign, anything to show her that King was still with her. Then she noticed the voicemail light on her phone was blinking. In a daze, she clicked it. 

My name is Sergeant Wesley, the message said. I’m calling you from Iraq. You don’t know me, but I was friends with Sergeant King, and he gave me your phone number. He made me promise that if anything ever happened to him, I would call you and tell you that he loves you and you’re going to be okay. 

Canedy was speechless. The moment was so miraculous, she knew without a doubt it was God. “There is no other time in my life that I felt His presence so palpably then when I was grieving,” she said. “My faith is what got me through it.”  

This message of faith is exactly what Canedy hopes audiences take away from the film, no matter what they have going on in their lives. While she knows it can be hard to hold onto faith, it’s what we must do during the darkest times until we finally bring ourselves back to the light of hope.  

“Meet yourself where you are,” she said. “Lean into your faith in those moments – your friends, your family, your village – and just hold on. If you can’t do anything else, just hold on and believe that it will get better. Because it always will.” 

A Journal for Jordan is playing in theaters and available to purchase on demand through Sony Pictures.  

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