Mom’s Favorite Child

Mom’s Favorite Child

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Mom’s Favorite Child

For weeks, both our mother and our brother had been near death with cancer. Mom and her dying son were inseparable, whether at home or as patients in the same hospital. None of us siblings resented that she turned to him so much during those final days. On a cold day in November, her four remaining sons carried her to his funeral, certain that they were fulfilling her last wish.

The long night that followed was both a horror and a blessing. My oldest sister, Marie, and I stayed with Mom in our childhood home. No matter what we did, Mom wept with grief and writhed with pain. Her cries mingled with the sounds of the icy rain blown against the windows of the old farmhouse, first in gusts, then in brief intermissions of heavy calm. Finally, around three o’clock in the morning, after telling us repeatedly that she would not see another dawn, she closed her eyes. An eerie silence settled over the house, as if death were very close to us again.

When Marie and I saw that she was not dead but was resting peacefully, we knew we should rest too. But we couldn’t sleep and started to talk.

Marie was the second child; I was the ninth and last. The two of us had never even lived in the same house, as she already had her own home when I was born. We looked and acted like members of the same clan, but we had never talked real “soul talk.” In the dim light of the room adjoining Mom’s, she and I whispered stories about our family.

Seeing my mother near death, I felt like a little girl again. I told Marie how I remembered so often the special solace of Mom’s lap. That was my retreat when I sought comfort for aching ears, or refuge from warring siblings, or just the closeness of her hug. To me she was always wonderfully soft and warm.

Marie knew the feeling. The shadows danced on the wall, a background to our animated whispers about childhood— the family struggles, the strict discipline and hard work, the inevitable fights with our siblings.

Then she made a shocking statement.

“It wasn’t really so hard for me, though, because I was always Mom’s favorite.”

I was astounded that she said the word out loud! Mom didn’t have favorites! Yet as I let myself think about it, I had to reply, “I can’t believe you said that . . . I guess I always thought I was her favorite.”

Marie and I both chuckled, each believing that the other had certainly placed second. Then the truth began to unfold, as we continued to swap stories about the calm and loving woman asleep in the next room.

“I have an idea,” I told her. “When the boys get here in the morning, let’s ask them who was her favorite.”

Two of our brothers awakened us at dawn, anxious to see if Mom had made it through the night. She had, and was still dozing. Over coffee at the big family table, I asked them the unspeakable question.

“Marie and I were talking last night, and couldn’t agree on something, so we thought we’d ask you. Who do you think was Mom’s favorite child?”

Coffee mugs stalled in midair. The two men’s eyebrows arched, and their mouths fell open. They squirmed in their chairs and looked out the window as intently as if counting the raindrops. Marie and I waited.

Finally, one brother spoke. “Well, you know Mom never played favorites. . . .” Then, making uneasy eye contact again, he said, “But if I were honest about it, I guess I’d have to say I always thought I was her favorite.”

The second brother, grinning with relief that he didn’t have to say it out loud first, confessed that he thought he was her favorite.

For the first time in months, we all laughed, as only childhood friends can laugh when finding a hidden treasure and sharing the secret.

How did she manage to make each of us feel like the favored child? She never told us we were. She showered none of us with gifts or special privileges. She was not very physically affectionate with us, and “I love you” was not part of daily conversation. But in her quiet way, she had a gift of presence more powerful than words. My husband (knowing secretly that he was her favorite son-in-law) summed it up: “When she was with you, she was all yours, as if you were the most important person in the world. Then she would go on to the next person, all his for a while.”

In those days just before her death, my brothers and sisters and I discovered together what each of us had felt all along. Mom’s love had no limits—each child was her favorite.

Sue Thomas Hegyvary

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners