In a world that seems to move faster every single day, it may be difficult to just stop and breathe. Trying to balance things like work, family, and a social life can become a burden as one aspect will suffer as you pay more attention to another. And that’s exactly what happened to this family.
This one hit really close to home.
A “workaholic” dad found out that his son had died in the worst possible circumstances and now he’s got an important message that he wants to share with everyone. Keep reading to hear the full story in his own words, as well as the heartbreaking advice he that left for all parents out there…
In a fast-paced world, it becomes difficult to take some time out. The fear of falling behind seems to control us all, whether it be in our careers or our daily routines.
A job is a job and it takes up a massive bulk of our lives. And, with technology advancing, it just makes working on-the-go more accessible, which only means less time focussing on other aspects of our lives.
Researchers have found that there is a direct link between those who fail to achieve the perfect work-life balance and those who struggle with mental health.
He was forced to learn things the hard way.
It’s a line that no parent ever wants to hear. While discussing “PTO policies” with twelve of his colleagues, he received a call from his wife, which he immediately answered.
He had a pact with his wife that stated if one of them ever called, it was dire, so they must answer.
In a detailed post on LinkdIn, he recalled the events of that dreaded day.
He said: “I was still walking through the door when I answered with ‘Hey, what’s up?'”
“‘What?’ I responded incredulously.
‘Wiley has died.’ she reiterated.
‘What?! No.’ I yelled out, ‘No!’
‘I’m so sorry, I have to call 911.'”
“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*ck. oh F*ck. oh F*ck.'”
“I sprinted through our open front door and ran straight towards the bedroom that the boys share. 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.”
So, not only had his son suddenly died, but, now, there was also an investigation going on in their home.
“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. 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.”
JR’s wife, Dr. Jessica, had found her son cold in his bed, while her other son was sat nearby playing on an iPad. Apparently, JR had skipped out on checking on his sons before he went to work that morning due to the fact that he had lots of meetings that day.
“An eerie calm came over me. 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.”
JR recalled that Wiley was obsessed with starting a business just like he did when he co-founded “Cloudability” in 2011, the same year that he was blessed to become a father to two sons.
“Around 5 years old, Wiley decided he was going to get married as an adult.
By 6 he had identified the girl, holding her hand at recess on the first day of kindergarten. Over the next two years, as we moved from Portland to London to Hawaii, he kept in touch with her by a handwritten letter. Not long before we moved back to Portland, the two agreed (by letter) to marry. She beat him to the punch and asked him. He accepted. Happily, he got to see her twice after we moved back to Portland in June.”
“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. 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.”
This event helped JR realize how many things he missed out on. He admitted that he had taken only a week off in the past 8 years so his family had suffered, with both sons not being able to spend time with their dad.
And it didn’t help that his wife, Jessica, was also working. But in the economic climate that we live in, it’s difficult to provide for a family if only one parent is working.
“The evening before was normal. Wiley was healthy and engaged. We had friends with kids over for dinner. We all jumped on the giant trampoline that had been the first purchase for the house we had bought just a few weeks ago.
We ordered take out and Wiley ate his favorite meal: rice with yellow dahl. Then we put the kids to bed. I had a very sweet interaction with Wiley at bedtime… We had a good snuggle and I went to bed myself.”
After hearing the devastating news, he felt extremely guilty – as one would – about fretting about his “back to back meetings” and other superficial things related to work.
“None seem that important now. I left that morning without saying goodbye or checking on the boys.”
“Late that morning, Jessica had thought Wiley was simply sleeping in. He loved to sleep, he loved his bed, and it had been a big week of late bedtimes and fun daytime activities with visiting friends. Eventually, she got the sense it had been too long and went in to check on him.
He was cold.”
“Last year, Wiley was diagnosed with a typically mild form of epilepsy called Benign Rolandic Epilepsy that is most common in boys between 8-13. It’s called ‘benign’ because it typically resolves on its own by the teenage years. Wiley’s was light; we only saw a single confirmed seizure occur.”
However, the doctors had told the family that they had little to worry about, which put them at ease.
“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.”
It was unpredictable and unpreventable and, unfortunately, Wiley became that 1 out of 4,500.
“The big question is how to return to work in a way that won’t leave me again with the regrets I have now.
To be honest, I’ve considered not going back. 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.”
“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.”
The small things genuinely do matter.
It takes something as horrific as this to happen to change your entire perception of life. JR learned to stop waiting to do the things that children want to do, like family day outs and spending quality time together.
“They decided to pool their money to buy a tent for camping. But we didn’t make it happen before Wiley died. Another regret. So, after the first round of family visits after his death, I took Jessica and Oliver to REI to get gear and we left town quickly to camp near Mt. St. Helens.”
With baby steps, there will be fewer regrets.
“Somehow, we got to the wilderness without enough cash to cover the campground fee and had a slight panic.
Jessica then realized that Wiley’s $100 bill was still in his seat pocket. He got to spend his money on camping after all. Collectively, the family said a big, ‘thanks, buddy out-loud to him.
It was one of many bittersweet moments we will experience for the rest of our lives. Each happy time brings with it the sadness that he doesn’t get to experience it.”
In it, she expressed this heartbreaking sentence: “Please ask us about our son’s life and his death. We heal in small bits while talking about it.”
The post has since received over fifteen thousand likes.
Personally, this heartbreaking story put into perspective what I already knew somewhere at the back of my mind but always chosen to ignore. It’s time to start implementing those changes before it’s too late.
“I hope from this tragedy you consider how you prioritize your own time.”
Simple but effective advice.