Oprah Details Her Last Days With Her Mother Before Her Passing
Who would’ve ever thought the Queen of Daytime TV would have trouble holding a conversation? In an a new interview, Oprah Winfrey opened up about how she found the strength to say goodbye to her mother, Vernita Lee, in her last days before passing away on Thanksgiving. See some excerpts below.
On watching her mother say her last goodbyes to friends and family:
“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.’…And that’s what happened. People would come in. She would tear up when she saw them. You could see the appreciation and love she felt for them. Then, I said to her, ‘What a wonderful thing to be able to say goodbye,’ because she’s completely coherent and perfectly understanding everything.”
Oprah’s first attempt at speaking with her mother for the last time:
“[I] booked to fly to Boston for a speaking engagement, she says, “I stood in the doorway and I said, ‘goodbye.’ I knew it was going to be the last time we said goodbye, although I didn’t say to her, ‘This is the last time I’m going to say goodbye.’…I went and I spoke in Boston, in Lowell. We got snowed in, in Lowell. I knew that the next day, I had a bunch of meetings in California. I canceled all of those meetings. I went back to Milwaukee, because I felt like I had not closed 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.”
Oprah had a few celebrity friends serenade her mother before her passing:
“I waited for a way to say what I wanted to say. 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?’ I just walked in with my iPhone, and a voice said, ‘Play some music.’ Mahalia Jackson popped up on my Apple iTunes. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s good. Mahalia Jackson, Precious Lord.’…Wintley Phipps is a really great friend of mine. I thought, ‘What if I call Wintley and got him to sing ‘Precious Lord’ to her?’ I called Wintley, and asked him to FaceTime. He sang ‘Precious Lord’ live to her from his kitchen table. I played another one of her favorite artists, Joshua Nelson, singing ‘How I Got Over.’ I could see that it opened her a little bit, because my mother’s been a very closed down person. I could see that the music gave me an opening to say what I needed to say.”
Oprah’s final moment with her mother:
“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.’ Then I told her, ‘You should be able to … you should go in peace.’ I told her because my mother has had diabetes. Three years ago she knew she should’ve had dialysis and she didn’t want to do it. It was her choice not to do it. I said, ‘You should do whatever your body tells you to do. Nobody’s going to force you to do what you don’t want to do.’ I said, ‘You made the best decision for you, but now your body’s shutting down. This is what’s happening. Your kidneys have shut down. Your organs are going to shut down. What you want it to be, what I want it to be, is as peaceful as possible.’In that moment, my sister was in the room. My mother’s had real problems since my sister came back from the adoption. My sister said, ‘Please forgive yourself, because I’ve forgiven you for giving me away.’ It was just really sacred and beautiful.”
Oprah’s advice for people that have to say goodbye to their loved ones:
“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.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with Oprah Winfrey and family during their time of loss.
Written by Miata Shanay