LinkedIn | J.R. Storment

Workaholic Dad Makes Emotional Plea After Death Of His 8-Year-Old Son

Ryan Ford 11 Sep 2019

Getting a business going is no small endeavor. It's not something you can just do on weekends. Entrepreneurs make big sacrifices to make their dreams reality.

J.R. Storment decided to found his business, Cloudability, the same month that his wife gave birth to twin boys. You can just imagine the time he must have put in over the years and the moments he must have missed at home. Just shy of eight years later, his hard work paid off and Cloudability was acquired.

Just a matter of weeks after that, one of J.R.'s sons passed away. Three weeks later, he penned a powerful message about the experience on LinkedIn.

In his letter, titled "It's Later Than You Think," J.R. describes the emotional moment he learned the horrible news.

Facebook | J.R. Storment

"When I got the call I was sitting in a conference room with 12 people at our Portland office talking about PTO policies," he wrote. "Minutes earlier, I had admitted to the group that in the last 8 years I’d not taken more than a contiguous week off.

"My wife and I have an agreement that when one of us calls, the other answers. So when the phone rang I stood up and walked to the conference room door immediately."

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"I was still walking through the door when I answered with 'Hey, what’s up?'" J.R. recalled.

Facebook | J.R. Storment

"Her reply was icy and immediate: 'J.R., Wiley is dead.'

'What?' I responded incredulously.

'Wiley has died.' she reiterated.

'What?! No.' I yelled out, 'No!'

'I'm so sorry, I have to call 911.'

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Twelve minutes later, J.R. was back at his house, which was surrounded by emergency vehicles, thanks to a kind colleague.

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"I sprinted through our open front door and ran straight towards the bedroom that the boys share. One of a half-dozen police officers there stepped in front of me blocking the way. When a child dies suddenly, it becomes a potential crime scene."

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J.R. waited for as long as he could, but after an hour, he couldn't help it an barged his way through to see his son.

Facebook | J.R. Storment

"They allowed me to go out to the deck facing the kids room to peer through the sliding glass window. He lay in his bed, covers neatly on, looking peacefully asleep. I put my hand on the glass and lost it.

"When the medical examiner finally finished his work, we were allowed in the room. An eerie calm came over me. I laid down next to him in the bed that he loved, held his hand and kept repeating, 'What happened, buddy? What happened?'"

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What had happened was something rare and unpredictable.

Facebook | J.R. Storment

Wiley had a mild form of epilepsy called Benign Rolandic Epilepsy that usually goes away on its own during the teenage years. With epilepsy comes a minute, remote risk of Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy, or SUDEP.

"SUDEP is generally seen to be unpredictable, unpreventable, and irreversible once it starts," J.R. explained. "It can be tied to a seizure but many times the brain just shuts down. Statistically, it was highly unlikely to hit our son: 1 out of 4,500 children with epilepsy are affected. Sometimes you end up the statistic."

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And indeed for J.R. and his family, it was completely unpredictable.

Facebook | J.R. Storment

"The evening before was normal," J.R. wrote. "Wiley was healthy and engaged. We had friends with kids over for dinner. We all jumped on the giant trampoline that had been the first purchase for the house we had bought just a few weeks ago.

"That evening Wiley got bossy with the other kids (other than his mother, he was one of the most opinionated people I know) and started telling everyone they were playing the game wrong. I pulled him aside. I was stern with him. Too stern in hindsight. And I made him cry. It’s one of the last interactions we had and I’ve beaten myself up for it a dozen times."

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Later in the evening they made up and had snuggles at bedtime.

LinkedIn | J.R. Storment

The next morning it was business as usual for J.R. — up early and back into work mode: "I did a Peloton ride, took an analyst call from my home office, one with a colleague on the drive to work, then the rest at the office. None seem that important now. I left that morning without saying goodbye or checking on the boys."

But Wiley didn't get up. J.R.'s wife, Jessica, thought he was just sleeping in, but when she finally went to check on him, he was cold. "The Medical Examiner later estimated he had been dead for at least 8-10 hours by the time she found him, indicating he passed early in the night," J.R. wrote.

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J.R. says he still hasn't gone back to work.

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"The big question is how to return to work in a way that won’t leave me again with the regrets I have now," he wrote. "To be honest, I’ve considered not going back. But I believe in the words of Kahlil Gibran who said, 'Work is love made visible.' To me, that line is a testament to how much we gain, grow and offer through the work we do. But that work needs to have a balance that I have rarely lived. It’s a balance that lets us offer our gifts to the world but not at the cost of self and family."

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And he has an emotional plea for other workaholic parents out there.

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"Hug your kids. Don’t work too late. A lot of the things you are likely spending your time on you’ll regret once you no longer have the time. 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."

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"I’ve learned to stop waiting to do the things the kids ask for," he continued.

Unsplash | Marco Ceschi

"While I sat writing this post, my living son, Oliver, came in to ask for screen time. Instead of saying the usual 'no,' I stopped writing and asked if I could play with him. He was happily surprised by my answer and we connected in a way I would have formerly missed out on. Small things matter. One silver lining from this tragedy is the improving relationship I have with him."

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To sum up, J.R. quotes a song the family had heard together at the Oregon Country Fair, which had been one of Wiley's favorites: "Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think."

LinkedIn | J.R. Storment

"You work and work for years and years, you're always on the go

You never take a minute off, too busy makin' dough

Someday, you say, you'll have your fun, when you're a millionaire

Imagine all the fun you'll have in your old rockin' chair

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink

The years go by, as quickly as a wink

Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think"

Read J.R.'s full letter right here.

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