There are a lot of negatives about social media, and Facebook in particular. Rife with politics and one-upping and outright rage, this platform can be draining if not exhausting. But there is something really unique about it that I treasure, which is the fact that I can connect with folks I don’t see on a regular basis, or at all, in some cases.
I kept up with John Divine on Facebook, but I’ve known him for a good while. Decades ago, when he worked at Books-a-Million, he called me about selling my cookbook in the store’s local section. This was a really big deal to me, and, completely intimidated and nervous, I toted a dozen books into the massive store and tried to look like I belonged with real writers.
It took about two seconds for this gregarious guy to holler at me from his fortress office in the center of the megastore and give me a bear hug and act like I was the best part of his day, putting me right at ease.
Years later, I saw him at my sister-in-law’s father’s funeral in Atlanta. He knew it would be an emotional day for Marty Robinson on so many levels, and he made sure he was there for her. He did the same for Susan Martin at her son’s funeral. Cliff Martin left an ocean of sadness when he died so young. And John Divine was there for his friend Susan. Dressed in full drag at the service, he caught Susan’s eye, winked at her, and in the midst of her grief, she felt mirth bubble up unexpectedly. “I will never forget it,” Susan said of her friend. “He knew what I needed that long, sad day.”
The first Easter after Jayne Zahnd’s beloved husband died, John showed up at her door with the most gorgeous arrangement of white tulips and sunflowers and bluebells that she’d ever seen. “He was the best,” she says simply.
And lots and lots and lots of folks thought he was the best, no matter what side of the political fence they were on.
One friend, Paul Scott, shared on Facebook about a trip to Italy he had taken with John, during which he fell gravely ill: “One day in Florence, I could not get out of the bed. John went all over the city to find me food I could eat, and plain granita ice so I could slowly drink some cold Gatorade he poured over it. He took the whole day to take care of me. That is who John was.”
Thoughtful and caring and compassionate, yes. But syrupy sweet? No.
One of John’s last posts on Facebook read, “Saw a big patch of crabgrass yesterday, reminding me of a dinner and church committee meeting hosted by Martha Law at her home more than 30 years ago.
“Teetah,” asked Bill Crutchfield, “what's your secret to such a pretty yard?”
“Lots of weeding by hand,” she said.
Then she shared a joke her late husband, Hobby, loved to tell.
“Lookout Mountain is plagued by two things, crabgrass and adultery. And I think we've done a pretty good job on the crabgrass.”
Paul also wrote this, “My favorite quirk of John’s was his propensity to honk his horn going through any intersection. I asked him why in the world did he do this, and he responded - I just don’t trust people at the stop signs. You never know what they are going to do, and I am just warning them that I coming through.”
Martha Westbrook says it well. “You were wounded, deeply talented, wickedly hilarious, wise, courtly, and graciously kind. You were a one of a kind and beloved man. Go in peace to joy,” she wrote on his Facebook page, with an Amen from the Rev. John Talbird.
Kathleen Crevasse called described him as having “holy mischief,” and those two words sum up so much of him.
Deeply spiritual, he was committed to his church, St. Luke’s in Atlanta, where he was beloved by everyone from his fellow servants on the flower guild and kitchen outreach to the occasional visitor. “When two are three were gathered together,” a communicant posted, “John Divine was there, giving his all.”
Devoted to Samson and several corgis before him, John entertained the throngs on FB with his Sunday gelato postings. His cousin Adelaide Naumann had once suggested taking the dog for a walk and a treat to fight a blue Sunday, and it turned into a weekly tradition. On his last Sunday Gelato posting with Samson, John posted about a great Worship in the Park and thanked the folks by name who played music and “celebrated Holy Eucharist and offered an interactive homily in the midst of joggers, dog walkers, roller bladers, and kids playing in the fountains.” As was his modus operandi, he lifted up those around him.
“Blessed are they who are buried when hydrangeas are in bloom,” he posted a few weeks before he died. And when he entered into heaven, making all manner of commotion and certainly honking frantically, doubtless there wasn’t a straight face there. And here on earth, in a summer where the late freeze should have killed all the blooms, post after post after post of dinner-plate sized hydrangea blossoms in all hues pay tribute to Mr. Divine.
“There is nothing but love, compassion, and mercy flowing to you and me from God every second. And any religion that tells you different is a lie,” The Rev. J. Edwin Bacon Jr. said.
Rest in peace, John Divine, and know you are missed. (And your funeral was absolutely glorious.)
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Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a FREE pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.