Magazine

Gene's Final Farewells


One of Eugene O'Kelly's hopes in the last days of his life was to be able, as he would say, "to unwind" relationships of all kinds. He placed his many colleagues, friends, and family in five concentric circles; those closest to him were in the innermost ring. He began to say goodbye through e-mail, phone conversations, walks in Central Park, over a good bottle of wine. And always on his terms. He wanted the conversations to be positive, to focus on what he had learned. And, for many people, he wanted these encounters to be the last ones. Toward the end, he says, he realized that during his previous life as a business leader he might have been "too consumed by the outermost circle." As he puts it: "Perhaps I could have found the time, in the last decade, to have had a weekday lunch with my wife more than...twice?... I realized that being able to count a thousand people in that fifth circle was not something to be proud of. It was something to be wary of."


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