On Thanksgiving Day, Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, 83 died at her home in Milwaukee. In the days before, Winfrey was able to spend precious time with her mom, as she searched for the inspiration she needed to say goodbye. “In hospice care they have a little book about the little conversations,” Winfrey tells PEOPLE. “I thought, ‘Isn’t this strange? I am Oprah Winfrey, and I’m reading a hospice care book on what to say at the end.’”
“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?’ I was praying for a way in.”
Of course she found one.
In an exclusive interview, Winfrey tells PEOPLE about the emotional final days with her mother.
“This is the beauty of my life,” she says. “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.”
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OPRAH WINFREY SHARES HOW SHE SAID GOODBYE TO HER MOTHER! was originally published on praisecleveland.com