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Oprah Winfrey recalls the final moments with her father before his death

The television mogul shared the touching eulogy she delivered for her father, Vernon Winfrey, who died at 89 earlier this month.
Oprah Winfrey Attends Premiere With Father
Oprah Winfrey shared the eulogy she gave for her father, Vernon Winfrey, who died at 89 earlier this month. Adriane Jaeckle / Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey has shared the emotional eulogy for her father in which she reflected on witnessing his final breaths before his death at 89 earlier this month.

The entertainment mogul mourned the loss of Vernon Winfrey on July 8, four days after her family celebrated him with a backyard barbecue to let him know how much he was loved.

Winfrey, 68, shared her eulogy from his funeral on her website Sunday.

"Death is a great teacher," she said in the eulogy. "I learned a lot just sitting in the room, watching life seep from my father’s body. Breathing with him to measure his level of distress. 32 breaths a minute… 24 breaths a minute... and finally 9 breaths.

"What was reaffirmed for me more emphatically than ever was that every breath is precious. Death is here to remind us our days are numbered."

She said her father told doctors to treat his cancer aggressively with chemotherapy because he wanted to live until he was 90 years old.

"Tommy and I didn’t want that, but he insisted," Winfrey said in reference to Vernon's son, Tommy Walker. "And that first round of chemo was a knockout punch. As Tommy was explaining to him in hospital, 'You just got hit by Muhammad Ali. You’re on the ropes, brotha. You’re trying to stand back up. You can’t handle another punch.' It was Tommy’s boxing analogy that got him to release the chemo."

Winfrey also shared her poignant reply to a question from her father following the ceremony for him on July 4.

"After the appreciation celebration last week, when we were helping him back to bed, he said to me, 'Did you ever think I wouldn’t make it to 90?'" she said.

"I said, 'Dad, I don’t think God’s operating from a number in your head. Look at all the people who didn’t make it to 17 and 44 and 72 and 28. They had numbers they wanted to reach. But it’s not about the number — it’s about the service. Have you served your purpose? Have you done what you came to do? I believe when you’re done, you exit. It’s not about making a number.'

"I could feel him taking that in, and he softly responded, 'Well, that’s another way to look at it.'"

Vernon Winfrey was a beloved figure in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, where he owned a barbershop for more than 50 years and also served as a city councilman.

"His body is gone," Oprah Winfrey said. "But this I know for sure and have witnessed time and again: When someone who’s loved you in the flesh dies, stay open to embrace the Spirit. You get an angel you can call by name.

"And family, we have a mighty powerful one in Vernon Winfrey. Grieve, if you must, the loss of his physical body and presence that you could touch and hug. But rejoice, you hear me? Rejoice that he lived, and his love now lives in you, in ways the dense flesh could not allow."

Winfrey also called her father "a bridge over troubled water" for her since she was a child.

"Respect, character, honor, doing the right thing no matter who is looking — these are the foundational values we learned from my father," she said. "Also keeping the peace: I don’t ever remember seeing him angry, and never in life yell at anyone."

She recalled how her father would often welcome people struggling with addiction issues into their home to give them a place to sleep and receive assistance during a troubled time.

"It wasn’t until years later, doing 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' that I realized my empathy and compassion for people trying to get on their feet came from watching my father live his empathy and compassion," she said. "Never something he talked about, he just did it."