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Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life 1st Edition

187 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0071471725
ISBN-10: 0071471723
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Editorial Reviews 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (December 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071471723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071471725
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Travis Ingram on November 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
You never really consider how short life is until you're given a grim prognostication about your future. This is exactly what Eugene O'Kelly felt, and his story is one that is both poignant and thought-provoking. Chronicling the last 4 months of his life, O'Kelly describes his path from CEO to terminal patient. It is a touching memoir about the brevity of life and the importance of the small moments. My mom recommended this book for me and it has certainly opened my eyes. You never realize how much time you spend focusing on otherwise trivial day-to-day affairs. It makes you want to break out of your cocoon and explore even the most basic ideas that you've been avoiding. O'Kelly makes his impending death seem like an adventure rather than a morbid object of fear or resentment. It has certainly made me want to make the most of every moment.

In doing so, I've tried to find more healthful ways to live my life. I picked up a copy of Simple Natural Cures: Cheap & Effective Remedies for Everyday Common Ailments for my Kindle, and it has been a massive help for my health and well-being. I often suffer from indigestion, headaches, and anxiety, but after looking through the treatments outlined in Simple Natural Cures and employing them, I've been able to lead a much happier life. Like most people, my life has been filled with stress and anxiety, and O'Kelly's book has taught me that life's too short to live with these basic ailments plaguing everything. Simple Natural Cures helps you eliminate these commonplace maladies, helping you live the happier, healthier, and fuller life that O'Kelly ascribed to in his final months.
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133 of 139 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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55 of 57 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, both 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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34 of 35 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.

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