Gene O’Kelly was the CEO of KPMG, the worldwide accounting and consulting firm. He sat on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, traveled the world on business in first class, managing some of the world’s smartest and most ambitious professionals.

He was lucky and healthy. Then, one day, because he’d suffered some unexplained and uncharacteristic symptoms, he went to the doctor. After the proper tests, the doctor told him that he had a terminal disease, that he would be dead within nine months, and that his death would be relatively painless.

Chasing Daylight is the story of how a CEO manages his own death: becoming authentic, resolving relationships, learning about the precious value of the present moment.

One of his chief concerns, of course, is predictable and trite: I wish I’d spent more time with my family. We’ve all been warned that, on our own deathbeds, we won’t wish we’d spent more time at the office. Mr. O’Kelly comes to this wisdom, but my own daughter isn’t convinced, “He wishes he’d spent more time with his family,” she says. “And yet — he’s given months to live and he spends that time writing a book?” In the book, O’Kelly acknowledges this, but explains, in so many words, “I’m a CEO. I had to manage my own death.”

Yes, He Really Died
Months after I read the book, months after his death (September 10, 2005), I mentioned this book to a friend. My friend knew Gene O’Kelly, but hadn’t heard that he was sick, let alone dead. It had all happened that fast.

As the death genre goes, this is my favorite book. It is a one night read and well worth it. With Chasing Daylight, you have Gene O’Kelly on your board of directors as you manage your own death.

What’s In It For You?
Too early, you think, to start managing your death? Mr. O’Kelly teaches: “As for those considering taking the time someday to plan their final weeks and months, three words of advice: move it up.

Are you busy, but not engaged in life? Are you intolerant of those you will eventually accept? Do you have a will and a durable power of attorney for health care? Have you written an ethical will? Why wait? Move it up.

After all, the two golden rules apply here, too.