Novelist Pat Conroy tells this story on himself. As his mother was dying of leukemia (really of the chemotherapy that had taken all her lovely hair and reduced her to 80 pounds of bones), she asked: “Are you writing about me in your new book?” When he denied it, she said: “I can always tell when my children are lying. Promise me one thing. Don’t write about me like this. Make me beautiful.”
His answer: “Oh Mama, I’ll make you so beautiful. Because you made me a writer and presented me with a gift of tongues and a passion for language, I can lift you off that bed, banish the cancer from your cells forever, restore your shimmering hair and lovely figure and set you singing and dancing along the margins of my books forever. When they speak of beauty in the South, my mother, they’ll invoke your name and praise the immense high passions of the men who desired you and the children who were never a match for you.”
Ironically, although he dedicated this book to her and to his dad and siblings, none of them appreciated it and I read that his sister, in whose arms their mama died as her daughter read poetry to her, doesn’t even speak to Pat. I hope that isn’t still true.