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Oprah Winfrey lost her mother, Vernita Lee, on Thanksgiving Day, and now she’s opening up exclusively to People about the last conversations Oprah had with her mom before she passed.
“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,” says Oprah.
“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.”
Oprah continued, sharing the conversation she had with Lee asking if she thought she was going to make it through this.
“I went and we did the launch,” she recalls. “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.’”
Thank you to my mother Vernita Lee for doing the best she knew and could do in raising me. pic.twitter.com/JhKTY2RK
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) May 13, 2012
As she went on, Oprah explains how “people would come in” and her mother “would tear up when she saw them.” The self-made billionaire noted that “you could see the appreciation and love she felt for them.”
Eventually, Oprah says she said “goodbye,” and knew it would be the lsat time she would see Vernita Lee. She left to board a flight to Boston for a speaking engagement, but found herself booking a plane back to Milwaukee because she “felt like I had not close it.”
“I felt like I knew it was the end, but I wanted to make sure she knew it was the end, and that I said everything I wanted to say,” says Oprah.
Before wrapping up her interview, Oprah gave advice to those who have family members who are sick or on the verge of reaching “the end.”
I would say to anybody—and if you live long enough, everybody goes through it—say the things that you need to say while the people are still alive, so that you are not one of those people living with regret about what you would’ve, should’ve, could’ve said.”
Read her full People article here.