BY EUGENE O'KELLY & CORRINE O'KELLY
This is a book that will resonate with anyone who is on a fast paced career path. Eugene O'Kelly, the previous CEO and chairman of the large accounting firm, KPMG, was diagnosed with brain cancer at 53. He was given three months to live, and this is the story of his final days and how he chose to live them. He takes readers along for the experience through his downward spiral, from diagnosis to the process of dying. O'Kelly's story recounts the steps he took to simplify his life and how he learned “to be in the present moment, how to live there at least for snippets of time.” This is a story of how someone faces death purposefully with retrospection and resolution.
“It’s a blessing. It’s a curse. It’s what you get for saying hello to people. At some point, a good-bye is coming, too. Not just to all the people you love and who love you back, but to the world as well.”
O'Kelly attained his professional success after he landed his dream job as CEO of KPMG. He was happily married to a woman he loved, had a daughter he adored, and seemed to be living a life that many would aspire to for themselves. Yet, when he was told that he only had three months to live, O'Kelly said he “felt blessed.”
O'Kelly explains that the diagnosis and the wake-up call of his impending death inspired him to “unwind” his relationships. He saw his situation as a chance to finally take a step back and see his life from a unique perspective. The result of this different view was the realization that he needed closure and completeness in his relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. O'Kelly had been given the gift of knowing how much time he had left on this earth and to self-reflect and focus on the things that mattered most to him.
Once the shock of his unexpected diagnosis had settled in, O’Kelly and his wife, Corinne, put together a plan for living his last three months as fully as possible. The attention to detail and the thoroughness of their approach to death allowed him to fill his remaining time with meaning, substance, and joy. The tears and pain eventually led to acceptance, allowing O'Kelly the rare opportunity to design the end of his life on his terms.
“But if you start to live in the present now, not only do you get to enjoy it (which is huge), but you also prepare yourself for the future, which someday will be your present, breathing in your face.”
"As for those considering taking the time someday to plan their final weeks and months, three words of advice," he advises: "Move it up." This sound advice is something that anyone should take to heart because it comes from someone who knows. O'Kelly left his job, took his focus away from the future, and cast away a lifetime of habits. He was determined to create a new perspective and turn his death into a final, meaningful success.
O'Kelly's account of his final days captures the common mortality everyone shares. His unique perspective on the Type A personality reveals the tendency for driven professionals to think they have everything under control. It's only when someone comes face to face with their mortality are they able to see their life clearly, maybe for the first time. This clarity often brings an abrupt change in priorities and focus.
The story reinforces an adage that is all too familiar: People spend so much time building wealth and creating material successes that their personal relationships become secondary. O'Kelly shares his end-of-life revelations in a way that should give anyone their own wake-up call. He writes with emotion and insight about his transformation from fearing death to accepting it. He shares how his renewed focus on the truly important things in his life changed his life for the better while facing the inevitable.