John Travolta’s late son, Jett, would have turned 23-years-old this month had he lived past his 16th birthday. Jett, the oldest son of John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, died in 2009 after suffering a seizure at his family’s vacation home at the Old Bahama Bay Hotel, located on Grand Bahama Island. Jett, who had a history of seizures, hit his head in a bathtub during the seizure and was later declared dead at Rand Memorial Hospital.
Jett Travolta also had Kawasaki disease, a rare childhood illness that causes inflammation in the walls of medium-sized arteries throughout the body, including the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart muscle. The disease is mostly treatable.
On the anniversary of his son’s death, Travolta wrote a moving essay detailing what it is like to lose a child, stressing the importance of always loving and caring for your family.
“They say the hardest thing in the world is losing a parent. I can now say that isn’t true. The hardest thing in the world is losing a child. Someone you raised and watched grow every day. Someone you taught how to walk and talk. Someone you showed how to love. It’s the worst thing to ever happen to anyone,” he wrote.
“My son died of a seizure,” Travolta continued. “He brought me so much joy. He was my everything. Those 16 years of being his father taught me how to love unconditionally. We have to stop and be thankful for our children and children should stop and be thankful for their parents. Because, life is very short.”
And because life is short, as Travolta said, he exhorted everyone to make each moment count, to treat your loved ones with respect, and to simply spend time with them — because if not, it could be a source of great regret.
“Spend time with your parents and parents spend time with your children,” John said. “Treat them well. Because, one day, when you look up from your phone, they won’t be there anymore. What I truly learned most of all is, live and love everyday like it’s your last. Because, one day, it will be.”
He concluded, “Take chances and go live life. Tell the ones you love, that you love them every day. Don’t take any moment for granted. Life is worth living.”
John Travolta and his wife were both utterly devoted to their son Jett. In fact, when Jett was first born, Travolta relayed to People in an interview about becoming a new father that he went a “little nutsy” after Jett was born.
“I can’t imagine what life would be like without Jett,” Travolta said. “After he was born and cleaned up, I held him for hours while Kelly slept. When they came to take him away for various tests, I said, ‘No, you can’t see him today. You’ll have to do it another day.’ I went a little nutsy.”
Jett was also diagnosed with autism, a fact that Travolta and his wife kept private until after his death. Autism and epilepsy are co-morbid disorders, meaning they occur together frequently. And although most people with epilepsy live long, healthy lives, there is a higher risk for mortality among those who have seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, one of the biggest risks of having a seizure disorder is suffering an injury during a seizure. Sometimes these injuries are severe enough that, like Jett Travolta, they result in death. People with epilepsy also run the risk of SUDEP, which is sudden unexplained death in epilepsy.
John Travolta and his wife, Kelly, have two other children — daughter Ella Bleu, and son Benjamin Travolta, who was born after the death of his brother Jett.
[Photo by Tim Boyles/Getty Images Entertainment]