Dad's viral open letter after learning 8-year-old son died on a work conference call

J.R. Storment, pictured with his twin sons, Oliver and Wiley and his wife Jessica. Source: LinkedIn

A father has penned an emotional essay, explaining how he found out one of his sons had died in the middle of a work conference call.

JR Storment explains in the same month his twin boys were born eight years ago, he co-founded a tech start-up called Cloudability. About three months ago Cloudability was acquired - and three weeks ago, one of his sons suddenly died.

Mr Storment had reportedly “not taken more than a continuous week off” in eight years, something he told his colleagues in the conference room minutes before his wife called with the devastating news of his son’s death.

“My wife and I have an agreement that when one of us calls, the other answers,” Mr Storment explained in the essay posted to LinkedIn.

“So when the phone rang I stood up and walked to the conference room door immediately.”

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Mr Storment said following a “big week of late bedtimes and fun daytime activities,” Mr Storment’s wife Jessica assumed eight-year-old Wiley was just sleeping in.

“JR, Wiley is dead,” Jessica said when her husband answered the phone.

“I’m so sorry, I have to call 911,” she blurted out before hanging up.

By the time a colleague had driven Mr Storment home, there was a swarm of emergency vehicles outside the house.

Police officers stopped Mr Storment from entering his son’s bedroom, saying when a child suddenly dies, “it becomes a potential crime scene”.

“It was 2.5 painful hours before I could see my boy. After an hour of waiting in shock out front, I told the armed police officers guarding the doors that I couldn’t wait any longer,” Mr Storment said.

“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.”

After the medical examiner was done, the family was allowed to be with Wiley and Mr Storment said they stayed with him for about 30 minutes.

Eventually all the emergency vehicles left the street, the last vehicle to leave being the black mini van with Wiley’s body.

Wiley’s big dreams

Mr Storment said his son was obsessed with starting a business - sometimes the family would “work for” Wiley, not with him.

“One day it was a smoothie stand, the next it would be a gallery, then a VR headset company, then a ‘coder’, then a spaceship building company.”

At the age of five Wiley told his father he would get married as an adult and at six had already found his future wife. Moving from Portland to London, to Hawaii, the young couple kept in contact by writing letters.

The tragedy of it all came crashing home when Mr Storment read his son’s death certificate.

“Seeing his name written on the top of it was hard,” he said.

“However, two fields further down the form crushed me. The first said: ‘Occupation: Never worked’ and the next: ‘Marital Status: Never married’.

“I feel both fortunate and guilty to have had success in each.”

However since his son’s death three weeks ago, Mr Storment has had time to reflect on things he wished he had done differently.

J.R. Storment shared a page from Wiley's diary, which the family found a day after they died. Source: LinkedIn

‘No one mentioned what ultimately killed him’

Wiley was a healthy kid, according to Mr Storment. However he did have Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, which is most common in males aged between eight and 13.

“It’s called ‘benign’ because it typically resolves on its own by the teenage years,” Mr Storment wrote.

“Wiley’s was light: we only saw a single confirmed seizure occur. It happened about 9 months ago while we were visiting Portland from the UK.”

The night before his death, Mr Storment had words with Wiley, who was getting “bossy” with other kids. Mr Storment expressed how he regretted having words with his son.

“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’.”

After a pleasant evening with the family, Wiley apologised to his father, and said good night. Not long after, Wiley came to his father to say he could not get to sleep.

“There was loud music playing outside from a neighbour’s party and it was keeping him awake. I walked him back to his room and shut all the windows.

“He said that was better. We had another quick snuggle and a sweet exchange. Then I went to bed for good.”

The next morning, Mr Storment left the house early in the morning without saying goodbye or checking on the boys.

The medical examiner concluded Wiley had been dead for about eight to ten hours before Jessica found him.

“All of the multiple paediatricians 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 its course.

“None mentioned what ultimately killed him. SUDEP is shorthand for Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy. It’s rare enough that there is a philosophical debate in the neurology community about whether to proactively tell parents about it.”

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The ‘silver lining’

Since Wiley’s death, Mr Storment has been spending time away from work and with his family.

He said the silver lining was he now has the opportunity to improve his relationship with his son Oliver.

“Our family has gone from having two units of two (the parents and the twins) to now being a triangle of three.

“Oliver’s brilliant reply when we discussed the shape of our new family: ‘But Papa, the triangle is the strongest shape’.”

Shortly after Wiley’s death, Mr Storment took the family camping. Once his company had been acquired, he gave each of the boys a $100 bill. The decided to buy a tent with their combine money.

On the camping trip, the family realised they didn’t have enough cash to cover the camp ground fee. Then Jessica realised Wiley’s $100 bill was still in the car.

“Collectively, the family said a big, ‘Thanks, buddy’ out-loud to him,” Mr Storment recalls. “It was one of many bittersweet moments we will experience for the rest of our lives.”

“I hope from this tragedy you consider how you prioritise your own time,” Mr Storment concluded in his post, which is titled “It’s later than you think”.

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