Oprah Winfrey details emotional last days with late mother Vernita Lee

Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, died in November, and she’s opening up about her emotional last days with her mom.

Winfrey talked to People magazine about her final days with her mother, speaking out for the first time since she thanked fans on Instagram in the days following her mother’s death.

“I knew my mother was dying,” Winfrey told People. “I got a call from my sister (Patricia) that she thought it was the end.”

Winfrey, 64, said she surprised her mother in Milwaukee a few days before she helped Michelle Obama kick off her “Becoming” book tour in Chicago on Nov. 13. 

“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,’ ” Winfrey said.

“I had a conversation with her about what that felt like, what it felt like to be near the end,” she continued. “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.’ ”

Winfrey talked about struggling to find a way to express her feelings in Lee’s final days.

“I waited for a way to say what I wanted to say,” she said. “I couldn’t find it that day. The next morning I woke up, and I was actually praying for, ‘What is a way I can have this conversation about the end? How do I close it?’ I just thought, ‘What is the truth for me? What is it that I need to say?’ ”

The TV icon, actress and philanthropist said she used music to help create a moment for her to talk to her mom. Winfrey said she called friend and gospel singer Wintley Phipps and asked him to sing “Precious Lord” for Lee live over the phone.

“I could see that it opened her a little bit, because my mother’s been a very closed-down person,” Winfrey said. “I could see that the music gave me an opening to say what I needed to say.”

Winfrey continued: “What I said was, ‘Thank you. Thank you, because I know it’s been hard for you. 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.’ ”

Winfrey’s mother died on Thanksgiving Day, but she said that her mother’s death felt as “blessed” as it could feel.

“I feel complete. I feel really, really moved by all the people who’ve reached out to me,” she said. “I feel like it was as sacred and as blessed as a passing can be.”

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