Thursday, April 10, 2008

Eugene O'Kelly

I recently finished reading a book entitled Chasing Daylight How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O'Kelly. It's about his journey in the last 100 days of his life while dying of terminal brain cancer. O'Kelly was a highly successful CEO of KPMG when diagnosed in May 2005 at age 53. The book is his story of how he chose to live during the last days of his life. O'Kelly shared how he dealt with the relationships in his life, how he chose to say good bye and how he used his last months on earth to live his life to the fullest. He did go through the stages of grief but focused the most on acceptance. I don't know what made me buy this book, I don't plan on dying anytime soon but something made me purchase it. In the book he talks about the perfect moment. He readily admits that with his very busy lifestyle he didn't have many perfect moments and when he did, he didn't realize them for what they were. It wasn't until he looked for perfect moments that he realized that he'd experienced some already.
I'm lucky, I've always been aware of being in a perfect moment. Since I was young I have experienced moments that were perfect and also not perfect. I would say to myself, remember this moment. The first time I remember doing this was as a girl of 11 walking home from school. I lived at the top of street that had what seemed to me at the time, the steepest hill ever. I hated that hill most of the school year but especially in June when it was hot outside. I don't do well in the heat. (You would think that because I complain so much about winter on this blog that I would be a heat lover. I'm not. While I love sunshine I wilt when the temperature goes above 80. A perfect day for me is about 78 degrees, no humidity and sunny with a little breeze.) One day trudging up that hill in sweltering weather I said to myself, remember this moment when it's January and the temp is 10 degrees with blowing snow. I still remember that day today. Whenever what I think is a perfect moment happens I acknowledge it and try to store it in my memory bank. Can I recall all the perfect moments I've stored? Sadly no but but some I do. Sometimes that memory pops into my head unannounced, sometimes they're triggered by an event, a word, a sight or even a smell.

In Eugene O'Kelly's book he writes that there are perfect moments that are somewhat predicable such as they day you're married and the days that your children are born. He's right, those are perfect moments but he also talks about spontaneity and how those perfect moments are wonderful. I agree wholeheartedly.
One perfect moment I had was 10 years ago. My oldest son played little league and of course we were at every game. He had a wonderful coach who recognized each boys strengths and weaknesses. On Coach Fox's team everyone got to play, they were taught the physical skills of baseball but also good sportsmanship towards other teams and towards their own teammates. The parents also got along extremely well and enjoyed ourselves. We would bring hors d'oeuvres to the game and talk. We made sure to tell each other when their son was up to bat. One particular evening all the stars aligned perfectly. Each boy played well, when a good play happened the parents would sing lines from Will Smith's Gettin Jiggy With It. After the game my husband and I and Kevin and Cameron went to the concession stand and sat at a picnic table while the boys had their treat. I remember walking down the gravel path to the parking lot afterwards, there was a beautiful sunset and I said out loud remember this moment, it was perfect. I don't remember who won the game.

How do you recognize a perfect moment? For me I can tell because sometimes my heart seems to want to burst with happiness. Other times it's a very peaceful feeling. I had one just the other day in school. All the children had a good day, there was no drama or tears, no need for me to discuss any bad behaviors. When the students left that morning I felt very proud of them and I was happy. In our classroom we call that a warm fuzzy feeling.
Everyday brings us one step closer to our own death and while I don't live like my days they're numbered, as I get older I do appreciate the small moments that make me happy.

I know this was a long post and hope you read to the end of it. I would recommend Chasing Daylight for while it's a sad read it is also very heartwarming and thought provoking.


Craze said...

I definately want to read that book! Like you I've always told myself to remember certain special moments. And many of them do pop into my brain unannounced, brought on by a song, smell or vision. I've tried to teach this to my son as well and I think it's working. He can drive by a certain baseball field and remember a spectacular game that was played there. It was dark, the field lights were on, everyone was cheering the team on with a tie score in the 11th inning. I also don't remember who won but thinking of that moment makes my heart smile.

Kitten Herder said...

I don't know if I'll get around to reading the book. But, thank you for reminding me about 'perfect moments'. In a way, it reminds me that I mean to live my life more mindfully, not just for the 'perfect moments' but for all of them.