A few weeks ago, the WhyWhisper core team had convened in New York for our first-ever company strategy retreat. As a virtual firm with team members throughout the country, we were beyond excited to get together to collaborate, brainstorm, plan for the future, and spend time together.
But the night before, everything changed. Alex’s husband, Ron, had been on a motorcycle trip with one of his best friends, Wyatt Neumann, in Delaware. The two of them had been riding by the beach when Wyatt suffered what we would later find out was a brain aneurysm that caused him to lose control of his bike.
When Alex called me that next morning, she told me that Wyatt was in critical care. She had been up all night waiting to hear if the doctors could detect any brain activity and she needed to leave immediately for Delaware. Hearing the pain and exhaustion in her voice, I offered to go with her – only to learn that our other team member, Rachel Ishofsky, had offered to drive.
On the trip down, we talked about how quickly and drastically life can change. We took turns sharing stories – some inspiring, others somber – and Alex took calls from friends and loved ones, helping them sort through their own feelings of shock and grief. Though she was absolutely devastated herself, she never stopped acting as the rock that she is to so many. And through it all, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I was able to be where I was, sitting alongside brilliant, strong, compassionate women who would do anything they could to support one another.
When we got to the hospital, we told Alex we would stay in the lobby or wherever she needed us to be, but she insisted that we go out and explore, spend some time getting to know each other better (it was the first time in the year we had worked with WhyWhisper that we had ever met in person). As we drove out of the parking lot, Rachel put into words what I’d been feeling all day: “As terrible as all of this is, it’s amazing how much it affirms what WhyWhisper is all about.”
Alex founded WhyWhisper with the idea that people needed to focus their work on things that really mattered – things that improved others’ lives and made the world a better place. As a result, we value people, experiences, relationships – and in that car, on that day, those values couldn't have been more present.
Having heard stories of Wyatt’s adventures, Rachel and I set out to explore New Castle, Delaware. We got lunch at a quaint cafe, touched base with our clients, walked along the water, and even stumbled upon a colonial band and food truck festival. We made friends with street vendors, shared our personal life stories, and learned a lot about one another in the process.
Later that night, when Alex called us to come pick her up, we learned that Wyatt hadn’t made it. We stopped in a park and sat watching the sunset before making the 2.5 hour trip home. The gravity of it all was tangible. Alex talked to us about Wyatt, about his family, his passion for social justice, his outspoken nature, and his intent focus on living life out loud. We read through memories his loved ones were posting to Instagram, photographed the sunset, and as we stood to get back in the car, we looked at each another, all thinking the same thing. It hadn’t been the strategy retreat we had planned, but in the course of that day, Wyatt had taught us more about creating a life, legacy, and company than any strategy retreat ever would.
I never met Wyatt, but from what I’ve learned, he was an incredibly generous human who told it like it was, cared deeply for his family and friends, and lived each day to the fullest. Here are some of Alex’s words that very poignantly describe his impact:
"Moments like this never last," or so he used to say. But tonight, as I drive home mourning past moments and moments that should have been, I'm going to disagree. Every person who ever encountered Wyatt Neuman has at least one epic story to tell. He was a motorcycle-riding, tattoo-covered, drinking, smoking, crazy creative with an unwavering devotion to #dadlife, an intoxicating love for adventure, an (often irritating) opinionated nature, and the biggest, most beautiful of hearts. To each of us, all of us, he gave so many moments. And though he left this world today, his moments will forever live on. I think back to the time Ron sought relationship advice from Wyatt. Without that advice, #nycbeachwedding may never have been. He was proud of that one. I thank god for the emotional night he and I convinced a begrudging Ron to take a joy ride to Soho for over-priced 1am sushi. And today, sitting in a hospital heavy with heartbreak, I felt him beside us as we told stories and couldn't help but to laugh. These stories, all the stories, so many stories, these are moments that last. Thank you, Wyatt, for the moments. #notesfromtheroad
Wyatt - From each of us at WhyWhisper, we want to thank you for reminding us how important it is to prioritize our loved ones, live life without fear, and value every moment.
In the wake of Wyatt’s death, his wife, Jena, and two children, Stella and Takota, are very much in need of your support. Please consider making a donation here. An acclaimed photographer, you can view his amazing photographs here, and send Alex a note if you would like to receive information on his upcoming events and shows.