By Lindsay Seagraves/News Editor
“He was a pretty good ole’ guy,” said author Donna Ingram with a grin as she reflected on memories of her father, John Riley Whitaker. After losing the farm loving, humor-filled man who lent Ingram her roots, she searched for a way to cope with the grief.
“I’ve taught English all these years, so writing is an easy way for me to get my thoughts down,” she said.
The Glencoe Middle School teacher and former volleyball coach started writing the first part of her recently published series, “How I Grieve”, in the few weeks following her father’s passing. Then, Ingram explains, came the second part, and the third. After putting it all together, she self-published the book series under the pseudo name B. Taylor Mason and has been proactive about helping people grieve since.
“I thought, I can’t be the only person who grieves,” Ingram said. “Maybe this can help someone else.”
“How I Grieve” has become a message to others dealing with cancer, loss, and death, as Ingram talks about the different steps of grieving and gives insight to the father she misses daily.
“Grief is both universal and individual,” she described. “I grieve for my father differently than my mother, who lost her husband, and my kids, who lost their grandfather.”
Whitaker was also the father to Ingram’s younger sister Kimberly Whitaker Ginn. He was married to Marie Whitaker, and they have four grandchildren, Brennan, Brandt, Ellie and Riley.
Whitaker taught P.E. and coached basketball at Gadsden State Community College for over 40 years and served as the college’s athletic director. He died in August 2013 from an aggressive form of lymphoma.
“Some days I’m perfectly fine and it doesn’t bother me one bit. Then other days I can hear a sound or smell a smell that instantly triggers the memory of my dad and I’m sad,” Ingram said.
“It never goes away, but most days you just work on. You put it aside and do what you have to do,” she continued. “Even fantastic memories make your heart hurt.”
The Glencoe Public Library hosted a book signing for Ingram on Friday, June 20, where readers could meet the author and purchase a signed copy of her book. Many of the readers who attended the book signing had previously purchased Ingram’s book on Amazon or her website, btaylormason.com.
Ingram is currently working on a 30 day devotional about grief. She will be at the Attalla Public Library on July 17 for an author meet and greet and the Hokes Bluff Women’s Conference in October, where Ingram will lead a small group session on grief.
“My hope is that somebody can, in some way, get some comfort and know ‘I’m not alone.’”