“Have I Told You about My Pancreas?”

March 16, 2013

When I first met Tom Mullen, he was still asking people, “Have I told you about my pancreas?” and reminding them that not getting juvenile (Type I) diabetes until he was 35 proved that he was slow. This was probably twenty years before he wrote about “walking–nay, staggering–down the [hospital] hall a few hours after your abdomen had been savaged by a wealthy man wearing a mask while you were asleep.” With similar insight, Tom observes about aging, “As we get older, life seems an ongoing struggle to keep money coming in and teeth, hair, and vital organs from coming out.”

The last two quotations are from one of my favorite Tom Mullen books, and I remembered its title after, of course, my recent posts on loss and aging. Living Longer and Other Sobering Possibilities is only one of a collection of fine, funny books from Tom. Others include Middle Age and Other Mixed Blessings; Where Two or Three Are Gathered, Someone Spills the Milk; and Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences.

Though we lost him a few years ago, I’ll never forget Tom. As a friend and mentor, Tom taught me a lot about living well and laughter. He first taught me the phrase “being in fun,” and he practiced it in delightful and unexpected ways. He wrote and modeled that “it is possible to rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances” (emphatically saying not for all, but even in the middle of disease or loss). He clearly showed how to live one day at a time, receiving it as a gift from God.

I still give thanks for the times when working sessions with Tom morphed into story-telling times when we laughed until we cried and rattled our remaining vital organs. He joked about his quirks and weaknesses in ways that drew us all into a common bond. He told harrowing stories, such as getting flown by helicopter from a cruise ship for medical care, with such delight that you could almost forget he nearly died. His preaching, teaching, and writing prospered because Tom had mastered humor and loved people.

Yes, this is a tribute to Tom. A lot of us still miss him. But because he wrote so faithfully and well, his ministry can continue. You can still buy and read his books, including the tender and funny A Very Good Marriage and Seriously, Life Is a Laughing Matter. In all of them, Tom shows how to live in joy, even through hard times. Thanks, Tom, for the laughs and wisdom. (And I think I left in an adverb that you wouldn’t like.)




  1. I loved Tom Mullen and am eternally grateful for him. Here’s my testimony to his humor and teaching skills: I was a painfully self-conscious, introverted, liberal Quaker at Earlham School of Religion, and I knew I had to get beyond myself. Taking a preaching class was the ultimate nightmare class – I would have to preach in front of a professor and class and be critiqued on it! It was clear to me that Tom would be a gift – Tom and his class room would be a that could help ease me out of my self-conscious prison. The class was hard, but Tom started me on the freedom to laugh at myself and join in when others laugh with or about me.

    It is a tribute to him, too, that he didn’t encourage us by lowering his standards. Tom didn’t think my first sermon passed theological muster, and we had long conversations about it. I never felt diminished, and when Tom ultimately accepted my unusual claim about Genesis and free will, it was an empowering experience for me.

    Thank you, Tom. And thank you Howard for bringing Tom to mind again. You remind me of Tom in many ways.

  2. Rosalie Grafe says:

    I can still see Tom earnestly urging me to tell Howard to keep writing! Keep writing, Howard!

Living in Fun

"Walking Cheerfully" is place to think out loud about how to use and enjoy humor in positive, life-giving ways. We’ll explore how following Christ in all of life can shape, not scuttle, laughter and creative play. What might it mean to laugh with others as you would have them laugh with you?

Probably the other most common posts will be "Finds in Fun." I first learned the phrase “being in fun” from Tom Mullen’s Laughing Out Loud and Other Religious Experiences. He points to the playfulness of children, who are readier to laugh and to see the silly than most adults. Living each day “in fun” often makes us laugh as we slog through a nearly endless supply of things odd, silly, klutzy, and preposterous. The stories here are mostly from my own ordinary, “in fun” days.

Fun Nooks and Crannies

There’s “Humor in the Bible,” and these posts explore where it is, how to find it, and what to do with it. It’s one way of thinking about how to read the Bible well.

Since a lot of us spend big chunks of time at work, the “Humor at Work” posts will suggest ways to stay sane and happy, to get along with cow-orkers, and to use humor to do good work.

I’m a book-pusher at heart, and some of my best friends push books, too. I even know some folks who read. So “Fun Books” posts will tell about books that are funny and help us think about humor.

Sometimes I’ll brag on some of the friends I’ve been given or share some photos I’ve enjoyed taking. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe not, but they’ve brought joy in my journey.

Pie Town, New Mexico Weather

Sorry! No actual weather data available!

Data powered by


Recent Posts