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  • Working Parents Who Lost Their Son Plead: 'Don't Miss Out on Things That Matter'

    Their son’s passing has made them rethink work-life balance.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Working Parents Who Lost Their Son Plead: 'Don't Miss Out on Things That Matter'
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  • Working parents struggle with the guilt of losing quality time with their child to make a living for the family and build their careers. As their work-life flourishes, however, their personal life takes a beating — they may end up spending lesser time with their spouses and kids as their jobs become more demanding. By the time they realize how much they’ve lost, it may be too late.

    That’s the realization of two heartbroken American parents, J.R. Storment, and his wife Jessica Brandes, when their 8-year-old son, Wiley, suddenly passed away in August 2019. Writing two emotional LinkedIn posts, the husband and wife openly shared their regrets.

    J.R. shared in his essay that his life had been dominated by work ever since co-founded a cloud management start-up called Cloudability in 2011. It was also around the same time that he and his wife welcomed twin boys. Eight years later, he lost one of his sons.

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    “When I got the call, I was sitting in a conference room with 12 people at our Portland office talking about PTO policies,” the dad writes. He adds that he and Jessica have an agreement that when one of them calls, the other immediately answers.

    “When the phone rang, I stood up and walked to the conference 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.’”

    Jessica found their son lifeless in his bed after becoming suspicious that his “sleeping in” lasted too long. A naturopathic doctor, she could tell that Wiley had been dead for at least eight hours.

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    "Hug your kids. Don’t work too late." — J.R. Storment

    Nine months ago, Wiley was diagnosed with Rolandic Epilepsy, a form of “nocturnal epilepsy” that is “benign.” Experts said he would “suffer no cognitive deficits, that he would outgrow his condition.” However, J.R. believed that Wiley’s death was due to Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy (SUDEP), which has “no known trigger, no warning.”

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    As the two parents openly shared their grief, J.R. writes that he has come up with an endless list of things he regrets. He divides them into two categories: “Things I wish I had done differently and things I’m sad not to see him do.” One of his biggest regrets is being stern with him the night he died.

    “It’s one of the last interactions we had and I’ve beaten myself up for it a dozen times,” the dad writes. “I can still see the tears rolling down his face and the protestations of ‘but you’re not listening to me. No one listens to me.’”

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    Because of their tragic experience, the couple is urging parents not to miss out on precious moments with their children.

    “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,” J.R. writes. “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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    That’s because even if you think you have all the time in the world to make it up to your kids, life might not allow you to do so. “If we’ve learned anything at all, it’s that life is fragile and time really can be so cruelly short,” Jessica writes. “We wish a lot of things were different, but mostly we wish we’d had more time.”

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    She adds, “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. Take your vacation days and sabbaticals and go be with them. You will not regret the emails you forgot to send.”

    J.R. says that the death of Wiley has made him question returning to work. He wonders what he can do differently this time, so he doesn’t end up regretting many things. For now, he’s decided that small things matter, and he could work on improving his relationship with his living son, Oliver.

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    “We’re going to work on this new life — how to live it as best as we can,” Jessica writes. “We are navigating uncharted waters and we will be for the foreseeable future.”

    “I hope from this tragedy you consider how you prioritize your own time,” J.R. says.

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