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To Anyone Who’s Always Busy, Read This

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Life

In 2019, his startup was acquired for a large sum of cash.

Three weeks later one of his boys was dead.

A few minutes before he got the phone call, he’d been bragging to his team about how he hadn’t taken more than a week off work. He felt like Superman saying that. The phone call was from his wife.

“Hey honey, what’s up?”

“Wiley is dead.”


“Yes, he’s dead. Sorry, I’ve gotta go so I can call 911.”

He runs out into the street screaming the F-word. People think he’s gone crazy. Then he runs back to the office to get a lift to the hospital. At the front of his home there were sirens everywhere. Emergency vehicles line the street.

He rushes into his boy’s bedroom. Police hold him back. It’s officially a crime scene. It takes 2.5 hours before the father can see his dead son through a sliding door on the other side.

He loses it. Tears everywhere.

When he finally gets into the bedroom he holds his dead son’s hand. It’s cold as ice. “What happened little man?”

He stays with his wife for the next 30 minutes and strokes Wiley’s hair. A gurney then arrived to take him away. The father held his kid’s hand and forehead through the body bag as they wheeled him out to the black mini-van. All the vehicles gradually left the scene.

The last car to go was the mini-van.

At a young age Wiley decided he would get married and start a business. After his death his father had to fill out two fields on the death certificate:

“Occupation: Never worked”

“Marital Status: Never married”

His father got to do both of those things but Wiley would never get to. His father felt so guilty about that, like it was his fault.

The next few weeks were hell.

All he could think about were all the things he didn’t get to do with his son because he was always working.

The evening before Wiley’s death was unremarkable. The family celebrated a new home they had bought thanks to the acquisition of the company. Other kids from the neighborhood came over to play with Wiley.

He was a bit too bossy with them so his father yelled at him. This made Wiley cry.

“But you’re not listening to me. No one listens to me”.

His father didn’t hear the cry for help. It was the last interaction he had with his son before the sudden death.

It’s a regret he’ll live with for the rest of his life. Perhaps if he wasn’t so focused on the acquisition of his startup, he’d have had more time to think through the argument. Right before bed Wiley got to eat his favorite curry.

It was to be his last meal.

The parents put both their boys to bed. Not long after Wiley woke up suddenly.

“Daddy, I can’t sleep.”

The neighbor next door was playing loud music. The father closed the windows and doors to reduce the noise. It fixed the problem. They all went to bed for the last time as a family.

No one could predict what would happen next.

At 5:40 AM the father woke up.

He got on his trendy Peloton bike and did a ride. He took his vitamins (Silicon Valley elixirs), and checked all of his devices. He then sat in back-to-back early morning startup meetings for his company inside his home office (thank god for Zoom or this would never be possible).

He left home to go to the office without saying goodbye to his two boys or wife. Later in the morning his wife noticed Wiley was still asleep.

Perhaps he slept in.

After some time she became worried something was up. She walked into his bedroom and touched him. He was cold. Weird. (After the death the medical examiner predicted Wiley had been dead for 8–10 hours when he was found.)

The year before Wiley found out he had mild epilepsy. It was benign so nothing to worry about. All the medical experts at the time said to forget about it. “He’ll be right, mate.”

What killed Wiley was SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy).

It’s rare, unpreventable, unpredictable, and irreversible — words no parent ever wants to hear. It’s why medical professionals are reluctant to talk about it.

If a child has epilepsy there is a 1 in 4500 chance of them getting SUDEP. Unlucky for Wiley, I guess. He became the statistic.

When the father got asked what he learned from his son’s sudden death, I burst into tears reading it.

I have a one year old girl so his lessons ripped my heart apart. I’m still emotional retelling this story.

The first lesson he offered is “don’t work too late.”

For f*ck sake, I don’t know why more people don’t learn this lesson. The father says we often waste time on activities that take time away from our families. And this is what we end up regretting later on.

He says instead of spending time in meetings with our work colleagues, we should have meetings with our kids. Ouch!

Don’t miss out on the things that matter, like family.

The father says he got the gifts of the startup world through the acquisition of his business but at the cost of his family. It wasn’t worth it. We need a balance between work and family.

It makes me wonder if parents who spend lots of time with their kids but aren’t financially successful are actually happier.

Now he’s left with one son. When the kiddo asked for more screen time, his dad decided to play with him instead. He’s slowly learning to relearn how to work and live.

The relationship with his sole surviving son has become stronger as a result, which is the only miracle of this tragedy.

The father has also learned to stop waiting to do things with his kid. When he still had two boys he gave them $200 from the sale of his business. They were going to buy a tent but never got around to it. After the tragedy they finally went on their camping trip.

The final lesson the father leaves us with is this:

Use this tragedy as a way to rethink how you prioritize your time. Working so hard that you miss family moments is the hidden definition of failure society tries not to talk about.

I’m someone who’s always busy. After reading this story I’m going to be better. I’m going to stop trying to build some enormous online business and spend more time with my daughter.

I hope you will make more time for family, too, before it’s too late.

At any moment tragedy can strike, so make the most of now to minimize future regrets.

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