Miles herself had lost a three-year-old son on January 28, 1913. Mirick (called "Mark"), the youngest of her five children, died from scarlet fever which had gone untreated due to lack of money. When a doctor was finally summoned on January 25, it was too late. Kay Baker Gaston's description of the final hours, derived from Miles' journals, suggests the psychic toll the event on her:

At 3 a.m. Mark still recognized Emma. With closed eyes, he whispered, "I'm gona--I'm gona--I'm gona go to some other house." And then he added, a little more distinctly, "I'm--gona--die."

"Going to die?" asked Emma.

"Ye-h, I am, sir," Mark panted.

Emma told Mark she would stay with him and God would take care of him, but she knew her words were powerless against such suffering and doubted he even understood them. As Mark fought valiantly against certain death, the bed shook with his labored breathing. For the first time in Mark's life, Emma could not relieve his suffering. Alone in the night with Mark, she asked God's forgiveness for having given birth to children for whom she could not care. (115-6)

The death proved to be a turning point in Miles' life. She gave her husband Frank an ultimatum to provide a steady income within six months or she would take the children and leave him. When he failed to do so, she began the long process of separation that culminated in 1914 with her decision to move to Chattanooga.