Parents on social media have vowed to hold their children tighter after an Oregon couple shared a pair of viral essays revealing that their 8-year-old son died suddenly in his sleep.
J.R. Storment, a tech mogul, and Jessica Brandes, a naturopathic doctor, are the parents of 8-year-old twin boys, Wiley and Oliver. According to Brandes’ essay on LinkedIn, Wiley died in his sleep likely due to Rolandic Epilepsy in a death the Portland parents say has led them to focus less on work and spend more time as a family.
The essays quickly went viral, and social media users everywhere have opened up about their own relationships with their children and cutting down their work schedules.
“Charlie came down to our room four times last night. Four separate times,” Facebook user Jen Kulp of Virginia wrote of her son in a post on Tuesday. “But I got really progressively frustrated with him for waking everyone up not once, not twice, not three times, but four. A genuine, heartfelt thank you to JR Storment & Jessica Brandes for giving me the power to recognize the privilege of having my sons here in my arms, to be here to wake me, and for me to be patient enough to be there for them. What a devastating loss.”
In their respective essays on LinkedIn, Brandes and Storment admitted that they regretted their busy work schedules and urged others not to miss out on precious time with their children. Storment began his emotional essay by revealing that he founded his financial analysis company, Cloudability, around the time of his sons’ births eight years ago.
One social media user wrote that she could relate to the struggles of being a working parent.
“My oldest and I grew up together. I worked a job that wasn’t a good fit for me to give him a life that many would covet. With my youngest I am a stay at home Mom and it was an adjustment but I love it. I don’t miss my ‘old life’ like I used to,” the user wrote in a comment. “This is an extremely sad story yet both their children were and always will be loved. Their surviving boy needs a sheltering oasis to deal with this and they need each OTHER. I find with grief that the beginning is horrific but down the road that’s when you face your hardest tests. God Bless them all.”
It was about three weeks ago that Brandes discovered her son lifeless in his bed. She then had to make a difficult phone call to tell her husband of Wiley’s death.
“When I got the call I was sitting in a conference room with 12 people at our Portland office talking about PTO policies,” he recalled.
“Minutes earlier, I had admitted to the group that in the last 8 years I’d not taken more than a contiguous week off,” Storment wrote, describing the call as “icy and immediate.” “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.”
Emergency vehicles swarmed the cul-de-sac as Storment and Brandes spent their final moments with Wiley, they wrote.
“Our time was limited. It was not the way a parent should have to see their child, but it was all we had. We held his hand and fixed his hair and kissed his head until our time ran out,” Brandes wrote. Storment said his son was wheeled down the driveway to a black minivan, and he followed alongside him, “holding his hand and his forehead through the body bag,” as his wife watched on.
As the family continues to grieve, social media users have said they don’t know how they’d get through such a situation.
“As a mother of an 8 year old (and 3 others), I cannot even begin to imagine this happening to us,” Krystal Sourwine wrote in a comment. “The devastation these parents felt and will continue to feel is unfathomable. My heart aches for their family. Their post is a great reminder just how short life is. No job, no amount of money or luxury will ever compare to the life of your children or loved ones. Don’t let this time slip by you.”
For another Facebook user, the couple’s story hit close to home.
“I lost my 14 year old son due to an undiagnosed heart condition called Brugada. Brugada cause (sic) you to die when resting. After he passed, I found out I have it too,” Brooke Slawson of Florida commented. “What all of us parents want, that have lost a child, is for people to understand the importance of your loved ones not what you have. Time with your children/spouse is the most important thing. My heart breaks for this family because I understand the pain they are going through.”