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Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life Paperback – October 15, 2007
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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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Although I might have similar feelings, my view is that these were decisions for the author to make; it wasn't his responsibility to live his final months in a way acceptable to others
So, was his book a self-indulgent exercise, or does it have valuable lessons for those of us who might find ourselves in a similar situation? To be honest, I didn't find a lot of value in the book. But there are many four and five-star reviews here that show the book was helpful to many others. So, read some other reviews and decide if it might be helpful for you.
While you never hear the word, "mindfulness," that's really what he's talking about as the major lesson. In fact, he seems to relate that the majority of his life was lived in a mindLESS manner where he went from meeting to meeting running a Big 4 consulting firm. He worked 90 to 100 hours a week, attended only a couple of events at his daughter's middle school. And, he admits to possibly having his priorities misaligned - probably not an easy admission.
There are no answers for how to create work-life balance but it is a source of motivation to start living and pay attention, now.
I think about death many times per day, about once every five minutes. Do you? I don't know if this is normal or not. I was raised by Christian fundamentalists who thought they knew exactly what happened after death, and every Sunday we sang about it. I stood in the children's choir and sang, "You just dig my grave with a silver spade, 'cause I ain't gonna be here much longer," at age seven. I heard about this book on a Joe Rogan podcast and read it to get the latest in modern death literature.
O'Kelly was a businessman, and he brings his business attitude to his own demise. He plans it and carries it out. The poet Charles Bukowski had similar thoughts toward the end, "It’s a load, it’s something that’s got to be done." —Charles Bukowski, "The Captain is Out to Lunch" This attitude charmed me, and made death feel do-able, something we can all succeed at, funny as that sounds. Maybe it's the humor, the absurdity that charmed me.
I also liked O'Kelly's honesty about how he got to be a staggeringly wealthy CEO of KPMG: "As long as I believed I could handle such a high-pressure position, I wanted it, and as long as I wanted it, I would never be satisfied with less. As profound as my devotion to and love for my family were, after I’d achieved a certain level of proficiency and accomplishment I could not have settled for a job just because it guaranteed that I would be home each night by six and could make PTA meetings. People don’t walk into the top spot. They’re driven."
For all his determination to tie up every loose end, O'Kelly missed a few with me. He said he leaned on his faith during these final weeks, but he presents little evidence of having lived a life of regular devotion to God. He cared enough to endure a big argument with his atheist nephew on the subject of belief, but he didn't tell us what he expected after death.
O'Kelly was grateful for his 'success,' but he failed to fully appreciate his own wealth of options. This is important, because the book is very much in the self-help category. O'Kelly recommended or modeled an approach to dying. In many ways, he made an admirable effort, but the majority of readers can't quit their jobs, 'unwind' at their cabin at Lake Tahoe or hire 24-hour nursing care. I don't say this to be unkind, but the man remained a bit of a snob: "I loved golf. Don’t misunderstand me. But maybe I should have done more skiing. No one could say that, in my dying days, I wasn’t still learning." I hope he meant this to be humorous.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in the end of life. It feels sincere, O'Kelly makes a few interesting observations, and it's not too long.