J.R. Storment is an entrepreneur who has spent the last eight years building his company, almost never taking a day off. It’s the sort of tireless work ethic that American culture consistently applauds, but as he found out in the most tragic way possible, it’s a warped way to live.
Storment was in a meeting when his wife called and told him his 8-year-old son Wiley had died suddenly in his sleep from epilepsy.
Storment wrote about the tragedy in an emotional post on LinkedIn, describing what his family went through after the sudden loss and how it changed his perspective.
In the post, titled “It’s later than you think” Storment wrote:
When I got the call I was sitting in a conference room with 12 people at our Portland office talking about PTO policies. Minutes earlier, I had admitted to the group that in the last 8 years I’d not taken more than a contiguous week off.
Storment’s son’s epilepsy was supposedly one of the mildest types and the traumatic event came as a total shock. He had left the house early that morning for the office thinking everything was fine. In the post he described the frantic moment when he received the news:
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.
I was still walking through the door when I answered with “Hey, what’s up?”
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.”
In the lengthy post, Storment describes the things he wishes he had done differently and most involve working too much. He regrets not going camping with his children. The family had bought a tent but had never found the time. So after Wiley’s death, Storment, his wife, and Wiley’s twin brother Oliver, went camping as a way of honoring his memory.
Having suffered enormous loss he’s now urging parents to slow down and readjust their work-life balance and says the tragedy has changed how he interacts with his surviving son.
“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.”
Presumably, Storment posted his story on LinkedIn because he knew that’s where it would reach hard-charging and work-obsessed people who may need to hear his message about not sacrificing too much of life to career ambitions. Above all Storment urged parents to focus on “the things that matter,” writing:
“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. 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.”