Who Remembers?

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

One of the greatest names in football history is Vince Lombardi. He is the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. Many people would argue that he is the greatest coach of all time.

Lombardi’s name is synonymous with success, hard work, discipline, and playing the game right. The trophy given to the team that wins the Super Bowl is named “The Vince Lombardi Trophy.”

It was surprising to me to read recently that the grave of Vince Lombardi is in total disarray. As great as he was when he was alive, no one seems to remember him enough to look after his burial plot in New Jersey. He is buried next to his wife Marie, who died in 1982, and his parents Harry and Matilda Lombardi.

Gary Martin is not even a Packers fan. He pulls for the New York Jets. But 25 years ago he visited Mount Olivet Cemetery in Middletown Township, New Jersey because he wanted to see the grave of the famous coach. He was shocked to find that it was overgrown and hardly recognizable.

Gary Martin has taken it upon himself to keep the grave site cleared. Martin cuts down the overgrown bushes and brings woodchips and flowers to make it an attractive place.

Now this isn’t an easy task for Gary. He lives three hours away. He makes the trip once a month.

Lombardi’s long-term secretary in Green Bay, Lori Keck, was visiting the grave site and met Gary Martin who was doing the cleaning. She was shocked, amazed, and inspired that a person, who was not a family member, got no recognition for what he did, and certainly received no remuneration, was doing this. She discovered that Gary just does it because he felt somebody ought to remember Lombardi in this way.

That article convicted me. I am where I am because I stand on the shoulders of so many people that have gone before me. They provided the platform for me to be where I am today. I confess that I forget and certainly don’t thank God enough for them. I don’t know where a lot of them are buried, but I do know that their witness in my life still lives on!

This also reminds me that sometimes the simple things of life make the biggest difference. Gary Martin makes a long trip to clean a grave site and to leave some flowers. Big doors swing on small hinges. It makes me wonder what God has for me to do today that nobody else may ever know about.

It also reminds me that we do not serve to receive recognition or remuneration. When God places an opportunity in front of us, we just seize it and do it because it is where God wants us to serve. Jesus said, “He who tries to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life in my service shall discover life.” (Luke 9:24)

I have quoted Vince Lombardi often. I have met a few people who played for him. A New York Jets fan, Gary Martin, has become the unofficial grave site caretaker of Lombardi’s burial place. He hopes to someday place a four foot high Super Bowl replica trophy made out of granite on the front of the tombstone.

I am going to spend some time remembering some people who have greatly influenced me and pray about a proper way to acknowledge their witness in my life.

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