"Our family has gone from having two units of two (the parents and the twins) to now being a triangle of three," father J.R. Storment wrote in his LinkedIn essay

By Joelle Goldstein
September 10, 2019 09:27 PM

The Oregon couple who recently pleaded with parents to spend more time with their children are coming to terms with their new normal after their 8-year-old son died suddenly in his sleep.

Tech mogul J.R. Storment and his wife Jessica Brandes, a naturopathic doctor, recently wrote respective essays on LinkedIn, revealing how their 8-year-old son Wiley died in his sleep likely due to Rolandic Epilepsy, which has prompted the Portland parents to focus less on work and spend more time as a family.

In the weeks since Storment and Brandes lost their little boy, the couple said they are attempting to move forward with their new lives as a family of three — the two also share their son Oliver, Wiley’s twin brother — while also ensuring that they keep Wiley’s memory alive.

In order to do that, Brandes asked that their friends talk about Wiley, despite some believing it may be rude or awkward.

“We are grieving intensely, but one of the best things we can do is share our story with you … please ask us about our son’s life and his death. We heal in small bits while talking about it,” she wrote. “When you see us, don’t be afraid to mention Wiley. We love him and always will and we are doing our best to hold on to the amazing and expansive space he occupied here on this Earth.”

Added Brandes: “Our family of 4 now has to learn to be a family of 3. We’ve lost our son, and Oliver has lost his twin and his perpetual best friend since before birth. We’re going to work on this new life—how to live it as best we can. We are navigating uncharted waters and we will be for the foreseeable future.”

Wiley Storment
From left: J.R. Storment, Oliver, Jessica Brandes, and Wiley
| Credit: J.R. Storment

Echoing his wife’s sentiments, Storment revealed how it’s been a “big adjustment” to go “from having two units of two (the parents and the twins) to now being a triangle of three,” but said Oliver recently provided a sweet take on their new lives.

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

Storment also explained how through the tragedy, he’s found a “silver lining” that has enhanced the way he approaches his relationships with his loved ones and has helped him to better manage his work-life balance.

“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 recalled. “He was happily surprised by my answer and we connected in a way I would have formerly missed out on. Small things matter … Out of these ashes have come many new and restored connections.”

In addition to his new perspective, Storment noted how Wiley’s death has inspired him to “stop waiting to do the things the kids ask for,” such as going camping with his wife and Oliver after the tragedy — a trip that Wiley looked forward to going on, but never got to do.

“We didn’t make it happen before Wiley died. Another regret,” the father said. “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.”

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, who was at work, of Wiley’s death. After receiving the “icy and immediate” call, Storment rushed home to find emergency vehicles swarming their cul-de-sac.

Storment and Brandes then spent their final moments with Wiley, before the 8-year-old was wheeled down the driveway to a black minivan.

“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, while Storment said he followed his son to the van “holding his hand and his forehead through the body bag.”

Their heartbreaking story caught the attention of internet users around the world, many of whom vowed to hold their children tighter and cut down their work schedules to spend more time with them.

“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.”

“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.”