For the bereaved, the deluge of promotional Mother’s Day emails is more traumatic than the actual day. Kristian Glynn’s wife, the acclaimed writer Sarah Hughes, died of cancer last April at the age of 48.
It’s been a year since she died, and he and their two teenagers are still getting messages.
Mother’s Day was never a big deal in their house, and Glynn has no plans to celebrate this year. Instead, he’ll spend a usual Sunday with Ruby, 15, and Oisin, 13. “Her favorite ritual was to eat a big lunch and then throw all the finished parts into the middle of the room,” he says.
The joyful unveiling of Hughes’s book, which she was writing when she died, will be much more significant. It is a collection of her essays that have been finished by close friends and colleagues.
A passionate defense of “trashy” fiction and a celebration of the joys of fashion, even when Hughes was unwell, are included.
One section in Hughes’ article on memory mirrors Glynn’s views regarding Mother’s Day. “It is crucial that they do not regard me as Saint Mum, the death angel in paradise, but rather that they remember me in all my imperfections,” she writes. Shoe-throwing, yelling and losing my anger. Despite everything, reading to them, checking their homework, and making sure they feel needed and adored.”
She also mentions how tough it was to find solace in some of the most admired literature on death. Books like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking didn’t appeal to Hughes. The issue was she was leaving. She recalls wondering aloud which of her pals might not live to old age. Now it was clear.
In his own chapter, Glynn believes that his late wife’s “deep sensitivity made her the writer she was.” And the chapters from friends and coworkers show how important she was to their pleasure.
Hughes’ voracious enthusiasm for everything she was interested in shines through the pages. Her interests were Tottenham Hotspur, horse racing, Daphne du Maurier’s literature, and Game of Thrones.
“She truly fought for what she believed in,” Glynn says. “It started as a stream of mind. When I read the book, I can hear her.
Hughes gained a big following as a television writer for the Guardian, but she had worked for the publication since the early 2000s when she helped put up the sports sections.
Glynn had just returned from the couple’s annual trip to Cheltenham. He had fun but knew it would be unique. “I still do things I would have done with Sarah. I know they won’t be the same.
“We knew we would have a great time in Cheltenham whether it was just the two of us or friends joining us.”
Their shared passion for sports led Glynn to introduce Hughes to his adult profession, identifying money laundering and conducting due diligence on business clients, in New York, where Hughes began her freelance writing career. Even after having children, they both valued travel.
“We loved holidays. I took the kids to Berlin for half-term. Sarah would’ve known just where to go if she’d been there. “She was full of life and knowledge,” he says. “She showed up with a stack of Dostoevsky; all the Russian classics. She was always reading.”
Hughes, Glynn believes, would have tried her hand at historical fiction. “There would have been cloaks billowing,” he jokes.
He and the kids will keep doing what Hughes loved, he said. “You get up and go, but you remember. People say the anniversary is coming up, but it is every day. But, as I tell the kids, the worst is over. She can’t die.”
Glynn says he wanted Hughes’ book published because he thought it would assist others. “I understood from the Observer responses how good it might be for people.”
Alive with Hughes’ life power, as Glynn says. It also shows her “scars and all” in a chapter on her injuries and surgeries.
She had slipped on the cobbles and then hit her head on a Euro 96 lamppost as a naughty schoolgirl in Edinburgh. Then came C-sections and mastectomy. “A living map of all that I have lived through,” she writes.
To say Hughes has had a life full of adventure and misadventure is an understatement. She achieved and felt enough for one lifetime, but dying early is still unfair.