Chasing Daylight

From the flap: “At 53, Eugene O’Kelly was in the full swing of life. Chairman and CEO of KPMG .. he enjoyed a successful career and drew happiness from his wife, children, family and close friends…Then in May 2005, Gene was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer and given three to six months to live. Just like that.”

Put simply, Chasing Daylight is a short, sad, and truly personal account of O’Kelly’s last few months and how he tries to ‘unwind’ all his relationships.

Devin decided you can skip this one. Although it was a touching story I’d hate for people to sympathize with O’Kelly. He lived a fast-paced life as a CEO. I think he realized he had developed more business relationships than truly close, personal ones. He spends 3 weeks ‘unwinding’ with people described merely as ‘business associates’. His family dealt with this even through his last weeks of life.

Not only did the family relationship annoy me but the fact that I don’t think he really learned anything. Sure, he became less business-like and more relationship-based. Still, he seemed to be desperately making up for lost time (and failing).

There were a few good take-aways: he finished his life peacefully and ready to “transition”, he tried to make the best of a bad situation, he was fortunate to be healthy and lucid in his final days. He was lucky… sort of.

I think the best quote came in the beginning of the book:

I couldn’t hide it any longer. “The moment she grabbed my finger,” I said, “it hit me that someday I’ll have to say good-bye to her.” (referring to his newborn daughter)

But, he admittedly missed most of her life growing up. With a CEO schedule, no wonder. Plus, he died before he had the chance to take her on their final vacation together (she was 14) to Prague.

Probably because he was spending his time closing up relationships with his ‘associates’ early on…

Note to self: get your priorities straight.

Related reading: “Hold CEOs accountable for their bad parenting”, Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk