A self-proclaimed ‘workaholic’ father whose eight-year-old son died suddenly in his sleep has urged others to learn from his mistake and prioritize family over their jobs in a gut-wrenching essay.
In a now viral post on LinkedIn, tech-company founder J.R Storment laid bare the heartache he experienced following the death of one of his twin boys.
Storment admitted his life had been consumed by work ever since he co-founded the Portland-based cloud management start-up, Cloudability, in 2011 – the same year his twins Oliver and Wiley were born.
But everything changed three weeks ago, when Wiley suddenly died in his sleep after suffering a rare complication brought on by mild childhood epilepsy.
Storment’s wife, Dr. Jessica Brandes discovered the young boy cold in his bed as his brother lay nearby, playing on his iPad.
Just hours before, Wiley had been running around and playing with friends, as Storment and Brandes had been hosting a dinner party with two friends who have children.
Storment said the death of his child was a sobering reminder of how short life is, and that so many people struggle to balance their work and their family life healthily.
‘A lot of the things you are likely spending your time on you’ll regret once you no longer have the time,’ Storment warned, adding that he wished he could roll back the clock.
‘Eight years ago, during the same month, I had twin boys and co-founded Cloudability. About three months ago Cloudability was acquired. About three weeks ago we lost one of our boys.’
On the morning of his son’s death, Storment rose in the early hours ahead of a day of back-to-back meetings.
The father was so focused on his working day ahead, he raced out of the door without saying goodbye to the children. He completed two work calls on the way to the office before his phone buzzed for a third time.
This time, however, it was his wife on the other end.
In the midst of a meeting with his employees, Storment recalled the moment the room fell silent as he heard Jessica utter the chilling phrase, ‘Wiley is dead’.
Just moments before, Storment had been telling his workers how he hadn’t taken off a week of vacation in more than eight years.
‘That was the entire conversation. The next thing I know I’m sprinting out the front door of the office with my car keys in hand, running ferociously across the street and muttering ‘Oh f ***. Oh f **. Oh f**,’ Storment wrote.
He arrived back at his family home 12 minutes later, to find the cul-de-sac where his boys regularly played in the street filled with emergency vehicles and several armed officers.
More than two-and-a-half hours would pass before he was allowed inside to see Wiley, while authorities carried out an investigation.
‘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,’ Storment said.
‘I laid down next to him in the bed that he loved, held his hand and kept repeating, “What happened, buddy? What happened?” We stayed next to him for maybe 30 minutes and stroked his hair before they returned with a gurney to take him away. I walked him out, holding his hand and his forehead through the body bag as he was wheeled down our driveway.
‘Then all the cars drove away. The last one to leave was the black minivan with Wiley in it.’
In the weeks since Wiley’s death, Storment says he hasn’t worked for single minute, instead enjoying time with his family and helping to navigate them through the most difficult of times.
‘To be honest, I’ve considered not going back,’ Storment wrote. ‘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.’
Little Wiley had bold and bright plans for his future, Storment revealed, saying he hoped to be just like his dad and own a business of his own one day, sharing his life with somebody he loved.
His prospective business ventures included a smoothie stand, a virtual-reality headset operation and a ‘spaceship building company’, all in keeping with the broad imagination of an eight-year-old.
He would even invite his brother and parents to come and work with him, though he always insisted that he was the boss and they were his employees.
‘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,’ Storment wrote.
‘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.’
Storment said his work life will forever remain his biggest regret; his family shall remain his greatest achievement.
‘Many have asked what they can do to help. 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.
‘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 left over things and time is no longer available to you. It is priceless and should not be squandered.’
In times of unimaginable grief, Storment said he’s been able to find comfort in a memory of him and Wiley from years ago.
The doting father held his son in his arms as the pair danced at the Oregon Country Fair, while a local band performed the song, ‘Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)’, by Guy Lombardo.
‘You work and work for years and years, you’re always on the go / You never take a minute off, too busy makin’ dough,’ one verse sounds, before later concluding, ‘Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.’
Storment and Brandes are urging other parents to heed the song’s warning.
‘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,’ Brandes wrote in her own LinkedIn post.
‘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.’