The working dad from Oregon took to LinkedIn and shares an emotional plea to other parents.
J.R. Storment, of Portland, Oregon, was sitting in a conference room with 12 people talking about PTO policies when a call came in that would completely change his life. The father-of-two got a call from his wife saying something no parent ever wishes to hear, "Wiley is dead." The couple's 8-year-old son who once dreamed of running a smoothie stand, a VR headset company, and even a spaceship building company had died in his bed overnight. The working dad told his colleagues in the room that he'd only taken "a contiguous week off" in the past eight years. He instantly began to regret not having spent enough time with his son.
In an emotional post on LinkedIn, Storment explained that his son, Wiley, had passed away during his sleep as a result of complications from his mild epilepsy called Benign Rolandic Epilepsy that is most common in boys between 8 and 13. What took away the little boy's life was "Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy (SUDEP) which is "generally seen to be unpredictable, unpreventable, and irreversible once it starts," Storment explained.
Sharing his story he shed light on the importance of taking more time off work to spend with one's family. Speaking of the heartbreaks the family endured during the time of Wiley's death, Storment wrote: One of the countless difficult moments of this month was signing his death certificate. Seeing his name written on the top of it was hard. However, two fields further down the form crushed me. The first said: “Occupation: Never worked” and the next: “Marital Status: Never married”. He wanted so badly to do both of those things. I feel both fortunate and guilty to have had success in each. Over the last three weeks I have come up with an endless stream of things I regret. They tend to fall into two categories: things I wish I had done differently and things I’m sad not to see him do. My wife is constantly reminding me of all the things he did do: Wiley went to 10 countries, drove a car on a farm road in Hawaii, hiked in Greece, snorkeled in Fiji, wore a suit to a fantastic British prep school every day for two years, got rescued from a shark on a jet ski, kissed multiple girls, got good enough at chess to beat me twice in a row, wrote short stories and drew comics obsessively.
As he remembers his son fondly he also urges other parents not to miss out on special moments because they're too caught up with work. "Many have asked what they can do to help. Hug your kids. Don’t work too late," Storment wrote. "...I’m guessing you have 1:1 meetings on the books with a lot of people you work with. Do you have them regularly scheduled with your kids? If there’s any lesson to take away from this, it’s to remind others (and myself) not to miss out on the things that matter."
Wiley's mother also shared a moving message, saying, "If we’ve learned anything at all, it’s that life is fragile and time really can be so cruelly short. We wish a lot of things were different, but mostly we wish we’d had more time. If you are a parent and have any capacity to spend more time with your kids, do. When it ends, there’s just photos and leftover things and time is no longer available to you. It is priceless and should not be squandered. Take your vacation days and sabbaticals and go be with them. You will not regret the emails you forgot to send."