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Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life Hardcover – December 23, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0071471725 ISBN-10: 0071471723 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (December 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071471723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071471725
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As CEO at accounting giant KPMG, Eugene O'Kelly was so immersed in his job that over the course of a decade, he managed to have lunch with his wife on weekdays just twice. His travel schedule was set 18 months out. Once, he was so obsessed with impressing a potential client that he tracked down the man's travel schedule, booked the seat next to him on a flight, schmoozed the guy all the way to Australia, landed the account, and flew immediately back to Manhattan. His Type-A ways vanished when, at age 53, a top neurosurgeon in New York told him he had late-stage brain cancer. "His eyes told me I would die soon. It was late spring. I had seen my last autumn in New York." 

There are no TV-movie-style miracle treatments or extensions of his life expectancy; he's told he has maybe 3 months, and he doesn't spend any energy hoping for a cure. True to his CEO style, he creates goals for himself, lists of friends to visit for the last time; he meditates; he tries to create as many "perfect Moments" that he can, during dinner or phone conversations with friends, and realized how rare those moments of connection and joy were in his "previous life." Chasing Daylight is as much a self-criticism of his job-before-family ways as it is a meditation on time and a transition to a tranquil, spiritual state utterly foreign to him as a CEO. O'Kelly's absolutely more fulfilled by the soul work that he finishes in 100 days, compared to his 30 years of corporate promotions and accolades, and he utterly convinces readers to ponder their own situation, whether "in the gloaming" of life as he was or not. --Erica Jorgensen

From Publishers Weekly

O'Kelly, the former CEO and chairman of accounting juggernaut KPMG who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 53, writes about his "forthcoming death" as one would expect an accountant to: methodically. He charts his downward spiral, from symptoms to diagnosis to the process of dying in this poignant and posthumously published book. (O'Kelly died in September 2005.) O'Kelly's narrative recounts the steps he took to simplify his life-how he learned, for instance, "to be in the present moment, how to live there at least for snippets of time"-and the final experiences he shared with close friends and family. But his story falters on several occasions. O'Kelly provides few substantial details regarding his long career with KPMG; what information he does offer, and his wishes for the firm's continued success, read like portions of a company newsletter. He also refers constantly to his "wife of 27 years, Corinne, the girl of my dreams," but he fails to give readers a sense of her spirit and personality. (She wrote the final chapter, which takes place largely in the hospital as O'Kelly refuses food and water, eventually dying of an embolism.) Nor do readers learn much of O'Kelly's 14-year-old daughter, other than she's bright and he loves her. Though less than perfect, O'Kelly's examination of the life he lived and the opportunities he missed while climbing the corporate ladder will resonate with readers in "foot to the pedal" careers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

It is one of the very few books that, upon reading it, I have gone out to purchase extra copies, to give to special friends.
Tom E Johnson
Although the book really, REALLY made me wonder if I wanted to know how and when I was going to die, it made me think even more of how one should live.
M. Norris
I think this book shows us that it doesn't matter when you realize that your life is a journey and to enjoy living in the moment.
Maria

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 125 people found the following review helpful By M. Norris on January 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was fortunate enough to be handed a copy of this book by the publisher last week, when the James Frey/A Million Little Pieces debacle was coming to a head. It was fantastic to read Chasing Daylight, a real, un-sexed up memoir that deserves the attention that James Frey's books don't.

Most of the book was written by Gene O'Kelly after May 2005, when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer(the last chapter was written by his wife after O'Kelly died). He wrote about how he managed his final months alive; saying final goodbyes to friends and family, rememebering "perfect moments" he has before the diagnosis and experiencing many more new ones after. Although the book really, REALLY made me wonder if I wanted to know how and when I was going to die, it made me think even more of how one should live.

The story isn't about someone who threw his life away with addiction and had run-ins - real and imagined - with the law. O'Kelly was an accountant, most recently head of KPMG, with a wife and two children. He was mostly an ordinary person we can relate to who ran his life at 100 miles an hour - and was forced to step on the brakes when he got his diagnosis. Among other things, the book has a great message to all of us who lead our lives at that speed that we should slow it down, accept certain things the way they are, and value moments with family above time at work.

I also found the writing extraordinarily real, and at times had trouble concentrating because I found myself wondering what O'Kelly was thinking when he was writing it, knowing that he had seen his "last autumn in New York" and he knew how his memoir was going to end. Facing certain death with his level of peace was admirable.

This is a great book.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is written by Eugene O'Kelly, who was a very successful and ambitious CEO of a large international accounting firm. In May 2005, he was told he had only a few months to live, because he was suffering from an advanced form of brain cancer.

Mr. O'Kelly shows remarkable optimism in the face of his illness - not in thinking that he could beat it, but in believing that he had actually been given a gift, and he would now be given the opportunity to truly live his life to the fullest, and experience "Perfect" moments and days.

One comes away from this novel very impressed with Mr. O'Kelly, for the way he chose to live his life at the end, and for sharing his experience with us.

I earlier wrote a review for a similar book, and will say what I said then - that I don't think we humans are hardwired to always "live in the moment", and appreciate life to the fullest all the time. But these type books do help us understand that we should take the time to do so.

Mr. O'Kelly had a strong religious background, and he believed in an afterlife and that he might be reunited with his loved ones. For people who do not hold these beliefs, this book may be less comforting. But even so, Mr. O'Kelly's recommendations for how to have "Perfect" moments and days are relevant for everyone.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Amanda on January 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read Gene's book in one sitting, and will surely read it again soon. It's amazing how this man could possibly face his own mortality with courage, strength, and a new-found appreciation for the little things in life. I laughed (or at least chuckled at his ever-present sense of humor), I cried, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. This book had a profound impact on me. It has left me with many questions - about my own life and how I live each day. I am going to try to live for those "perfect moments." Thanks for sharing your vision with us Gene.

-AA
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Neilisa on July 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Chasing Daylight is a profound chronicle of Eugene O'Kelly's final 100 days of his life. He was diagnosed with late stage glioblastoma multiforme, which is terminal brain cancer. Within a week, he stepped down as CEO of KPMG and began to acclimate himself and his loved ones on how best to deal with this terminal disease.

As someone who is in the habit of setting goals and approaching every problem from a logical perspective, Gene O'Kelly began to make plans on what to do for the final three months of his life: He trains himself to live in the present, to find those perfect moments that crystallize the beauty of life, and to say his farewells to his friends, family and loved ones. In following his plan, and to his surprise, he attains what he's been after all along: peace.

There are few tragedies in life that can alter your perspective so profoundly, and one of those is being diagnosed with a terminal disease. It's like the blinders fall off and what seemed so important no longer matters, and what you always took for granted you now ardently embrace.

Gene and Corinne O'Kelly capture that so beautifully in Chasing Daylight. Gene's struggle with coming to terms with his death is heart wrenching, and Corinne's account of his final hours will bring tears to your eyes. Despite the short time he had to say good-bye to his loved ones, he did accomplish what he set out to do and then exited this life as a gentleman would: with perfect grace.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on May 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Gene O'Kelly was the CEO of KPMG, an international accounting and consulting firm, with $4 billion in revenues and 20,000 employees. In May 2005, at age 53, he was told that be had a brain tumour and had less than 6 months to live. He died in September of that year. He decided to narrate the story of his final months, in part as a personal catharsis, and as a reference for others.

I've seen some criticism of this book in terms of its breezy, somewhat detached style. But this denies the fact that death is as personal as life. It corresponds to temperament and circumstances.

O'Kelly was an accountant's accountant, a driven executive. He was not someone given to introspection. He lived an affluent, social and active lifestyle. It shows in this book. It has the accountant's traits of method, detail, thoroughness.. the executive's traits of objectivity, organization, compartmentalization.

He was not a particularly religious man. The religious aspects account for less than a page of the total book. He was Irish Catholic, but worshiped, better stated meditated, at a nearby Episcopalian Church, practiced TM, had a dinner and a private Mass with Cardinal Egan in his final weeks. The death sentence produced no profound search for spiritual enlightenment or reconciliation with God. The nebulous term 'consciousness' appears as the objective. This was just part of the routine of his life, and played in a minor key.

The book focuses on his personal approach to dying. Not surprisingly this involved a systematic, targetted, well ordered closing out of his affairs and relationships in this world. Some people might find this all too, well, procedural.
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