Oprah Winfrey Shares How She Said Goodbye to Her Mother Before She Died

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Oprah Winfrey is sharing how she said goodbye to her mother, Vernita Lee, who died last month at age 83.

“I just thought, ‘What is the truth for me? There isn’t going to be an answer in a book. What is it that I need to say?’” she told People. “I was praying for a way in.”

“This is the beauty of my life,” she said. “There’s not a thing that happens to me, that I don’t look at it as a teaching, learning, experience. I knew my mother was dying. I got a call from my sister (Patricia, who Lee gave up for adoption in 1963) that she thought it was the end. I was planning to go to launch Michelle Obama‘s book, Becoming, in Chicago. I hopped on a plane and I went early—I surprised my mother.”

“She’s sitting in this little room—she loves sitting in this room where it’s 80 degrees,” Winfrey added. “She just watches TV all day… She’s had nurses and so forth over the years. Even when she didn’t need nurses, she’s had nurses. She just liked having all these people.”

The 64-year-old media mogul said she soon realized that her mother knew she wouldn’t live much longer.

“I went and we did the launch,” Winfrey explained. “Then, I came back to Milwaukee. I sat with my mother. I said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to make it. Do you think you’re going to make it?’ She said, ‘I don’t think I am.’ I had a conversation with her about what that felt like, what it felt like to be near the end. I started telling all the people who cared about her that, ‘She knows it’s the end, so, if you want to say goodbye, you should come and say goodbye.'”

“And that’s what happened. People would come in. She would tear up when she saw them. You could see the appreciation and love she felt for them,” she continued. “Then, I said to her, ‘What a wonderful thing to be able to say goodbye,’ because she’s completely coherent and perfectly understanding everything.”

The TV personality said that during her mother's final days, she played music she knew she loved in an effort to comfort her and give her peace, including Mahalia Jackson, Joshua Nelson and a live performance, via FaceTime, from gospel singer and friend Wintley Phipps.

Winfrey also revealed her final conversation with her mother, knowing she would never see her again.

“What I said was, ‘Thank you. Thank you, because I know it’s been hard for you,” she shared. “It was hard for you as a young girl having a baby, in Mississippi. No education. No training. No skills. Seventeen, you get pregnant with this baby. Lots of people would have told you to give that baby away. Lots of people would’ve told you to abort that baby. You didn’t do that. I know that was hard. I want you to know that no matter what, I know that you always did the best you knew how to do. And look how it turned out.'”

“I feel complete. I feel really, really moved by all the people who’ve reached out to me," she concluded. "I got a really lovely note, just yesterday, from Jimmy Fallon (whose mom, Gloria, died in 2017) saying, ‘My mom’s up there, too, so if your mom has a party, tell her to call my mom.’ I feel like it was as sacred and as blessed as a passing can be.”

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