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Oprah Winfrey opens up about the emotional days before her mother's death

“I feel like it was as sacred and as blessed as a passing can be,” Winfrey said.
Oprah Winfrey opened up to People about her mother's passing.
George Burns Photography
/ Source: TODAY

Oprah Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, died on Thanksgiving Day. In a recent interview with People, Winfrey opened up about the emotional days before her mother’s passing.

She shared one powerful, honest conversation she had with her mother before the end.

“I said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to make it. Do you think you’re going to make it?’” Winfrey recalled. “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.’”

Winfrey also revealed that she struggled to say everything she wanted to say to her mother.

“I waited for a way to say what I wanted to say,” Winfrey told People. “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?'”

In a beautiful twist, music helped open the lines of communication. Winfrey opened her iPhone and “Precious Lord,” a song from gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, popped up on iTunes.

Winfrey is great friends with gospel singer Wintley Phipps, and she called him and asked him to sing “Precious Lord” to her mother.

“I called Wintley, and asked him to FaceTime. He sang ‘Precious Lord’ live to her from his kitchen table,” Winfrey said.

She also played her mother the song “How I Got Over” from one of her favorite artists, Joshua Nelson.

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

Winfrey says she thanked her mother for everything she did throughout her life.

“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,'” Winfrey said. “'And look how it turned out.'”

Ever since her mother passed away, Winfrey has been “really, really moved” by all the people who have reached out to her with condolences. She recalled one sweet note from Jimmy Fallon, who lost his mother, Gloria, last year.

“My mom’s up there, too,” the note read, “so if your mom has a party, tell her to call my mom.”

Above all, she is grateful to have had those final, “sacred and beautiful” moments with her mother.

“I feel like it was as sacred and as blessed as a passing can be,” she said.