They filed in, wearing their dark suits – jackets buttoned – red carnations and all in a row. Their gray hair was uniform from man to man. Some had turned loose of their gray over the years,  their balding heads interspersed in the group.

Two rows of men sat in all. The pews holding decades of friendship between them, the red cushions giving rest to the feet who shared so many journeys in life with the other souls around them.

They came in just before the family, these pall bearers.

They are the men of the church from my childhood. Two rows of men I have watched serve within the body of Christ. They have taught me in Sunday school, gone on youth trips, mission trips, and been a constant witness in my lifetime.

They sit a few rows ahead of my sister and me, now, as we, and the many others who have come, celebrate the life of one who has passed away that we have held dear.

Two rows of men. They chuckle as stories are told. The rib each other with their elbows at the mention of our friend’s antics in life, and sit up tall with hope as they hear of his strength in death.

Decades of friendship between them, and here they are to celebrate their friend. To mourn the loss of this man, and to rejoice that he is with the Lord. No cancer touches him now, and no pain or fatigue or weakness can come near him.

He looked at me when we visited last, smiling in the warm and comforting way that he had all my life and said, “I’m going home, Mason.”

Praise God for His grace to us. Praise God for Saints who face death and do not waver from the hope and the truth of the Gospel of our Lord.

Praise Christ for his beauty. Praise Christ for each of the fifty-one years that my friend was married to his wife. Praise Christ that she knows where her husband is, and for the vibrant family that supports her now as he is gone.

My friend taught my Sunday school class when I was in the seventh grade. He taught that class for 45 years. I am but one of many that sat under his teaching. Over the last fourteen years he has been a constant encouragement, faithful witness, and unwavering friend in the Gospel.

Praise God for the life of Mike Tripp.