The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth
October 31, 2011
Tons of people suffer every day. But it’s not the cards you’re dealt; it’s how you play them that make you a success. One man did it all for me: Henry Earl Mays, my dad.
What if you woke up to a disease, an imperfection that
screwed up every damn day? How could you succeed?
My dad worked through a lifetime of adversity and overcame.
His father died when he was two. His drug-addicted mom gave him up for
adoption. As a child, he survived a fall from a one-story building, landing on
top of his head, causing poor vision, an imperfection that plagued him the rest of his life.
He still played singles tennis. His grades earned him a scholarship. He graduated from college, obtained a master’s degree, raised a family, and provided well for us. He taught me, his oldest son, the value of honesty, hard work, how to throw a baseball, play football and tennis, and the beauty of the outdoors and the art of fishing. He was always there for my ball games and graduations, though he could barely see twenty feet. He taught me about love, and to put family first. His blindness forced him to retire early. Though he prided himself in his emotional control, he cried at my graduation from Annapolis. I wish he could have seen my medical school graduation, or at least heard it. He died two years before of a heart attack, at fifty-four.
Steve Jobs developed the iPhone despite cancer. Beethoven wrote symphonies even though he was deaf. Lou Gehrig, earned the “iron horse” of baseball with 2130 consecutive games, then lost his ability to even move and died at age 36. He said he was “The luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Of all these great men, I believe my dad, an ordinary family man, was greater. And I am luckier than Lou Gehrig. I am the oldest living male Mays for two generations. I hope one day to shake Dad’s hand again—Nah, I want to hug him and hold on for long, long time, and thank him for his determination and sacrifice.
His example makes me keep trying.
Love you, Dad.