"Hug your kids." 'Workaholic' dad's tragic letter after his 8-year-old son died suddenly.

After working for eight years without taking “more than a contiguous week off”, a father has opened up about being told at a work conference that his eight-year-old son had died.

In a heart-wrenching open letter posted to his LinkedIn page, the father-of-two, J.R. Storment, reflects on how the single moment was a catalyst for life change.

He remembers the night before his son’s passing, the eight-year-old couldn’t sleep. Wiley, who was a twin, came upstairs to tell his parents he was struggling, before Storment settled him and said goodnight. What he didn’t know was that would be the last goodnight he ever gave Wiley.

The next morning he went to work meetings – as normal. But before midday, his wife Jess called him whilst he was surrounded by 12 colleagues.

As he left the room, Jess told him: “J. R., Wiley is dead.”

“‘What?! No.’ I yelled out, ‘No!’

“‘I’m so sorry, I have to call 911,'” she told him.

A colleague drove him home, where he immediately noticed the emergency vehicles parked outside his home.

“I sprinted through our open front door and ran straight towards the bedroom that the boys share,” Storment recalls. “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.”

“It was 2.5 painful hours before I could see my boy,” he continues. “He lay in his bed, covers neatly on, looking peacefully asleep. I put my hand on the glass and lost it.”

“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.”

workaholic dad
A journal entry from Wiley, which the parents found the day after he passed away. Image: LinkedIn.

Wiley had been diagnosed with Benign Rolandic Epilepsy the year prior to his death.

"All of the multiple pediatricians and neurologists with whom we discussed his condition said there was little to be concerned about. He had the 'best' type of epilepsy and we should let it run his course. None mentioned what ultimately killed him."

Wiley's cause of death was SUDEP, or Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy.

As he states, SUDEP is rare and unpredictable.

"One out of 4,500 children with epilepsy are affected.

"Sometimes you end up the statistic."

As the father adds, "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."

But the father also shares that his son's tragic death has seen him look at how he was living his life in a new perspective.

His sons were born the same month he co-founded a business, Cloudability. And as mentioned earlier, he never took even a week-long holiday during the eight years he owned the business.

"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."

Following his grief, Storment has advice for fellow working parents.

"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."

A silver lining, he says, that has come from the tragic circumstances is the improved relationship with his other son, Wiley's twin, Oliver.

He ends the heartfelt post, saying: "Out of these ashes have come many new and restored connections... And I hope from this tragedy you consider how you prioritise your own time."

You can read J. R. Storment's full letter, titled "It's later than you think," on LinkedIn