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Sometimes it takes a tragic story to put our priorities into perspective. Amid the throes of unimaginable grief, Portland-based tech entrepreneur J.R. Storment took the time to write a now-viral essay urging parents to truly reconsider how they spend their time — and whether their families, not just their work, are at the top of their priority lists. His heartbreaking story serves as a powerful reminder that our work shouldn’t overshadow our loved ones.
Storment and his wife, Jessica Brandes, unexpectedly lost their 8-year-old twin son, Wiley, to rare complications from epilepsy, and have since been left not only with regrets, but also “restored connections” with their living twin, Oliver, he writes. The co-founder of Cloudability, Storment has been facing the challenge of reintegrating his professional and personal life. He details how he started his company and had his twin boys in the very same month eight years ago, and still struggles to feel in-tune with his both of his roles of father and founder. On the morning of Wiley’s passing, Storment says he woke up early for a series of back-to-back meetings, amongst other work-related tasks, and ended up leaving his home without saying goodbye to his sons.
Now his family must learn to adjust from being a family of four to a “triangle of three,” — Oliver remarked that the “triangle is the strongest shape” of all — and Storment himself is left to consider how he can eventually return to work “in a way that won’t leave me again with the regrets I have now,” he writes.
Losing a loved one is one of the most painful yet inevitable experiences, and although it can be difficult to know what to say to someone who’s grieving, Brandes advises respectfully asking them about it. “We heal in small bits while talking about it,” she writes in her own essay. The pair also hopes you’ll take matters into your own hands. Storment encourages parents everywhere: “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 one-on-one meetings on the books with a lot of people you work with. Do you have them regularly scheduled with your kids?” Brandes also urges us to take our vacation days to spend time with loved ones: “You will not regret the emails you forgot to send.”
And even in the midst of distress, Storment and Brandes are carrying on with a renewed sense of meaning and are taking the opportunity to actively strengthen their relationship with their surviving 8-year-old twin, Oliver. “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,” Storment writes. “He was happily surprised by my answer and we connected in a way I would have formerly missed out on. Small things matter.”