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Oprah Winfrey opened up to PEOPLE about the emotional final days with her mother, Vernita Lee, who died Thanksgiving Day.

“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.”

In an exclusive interview, Winfrey discusses 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.”

SOURCE: People

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