On Wednesday, Queen Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, passed away. Owens’ death came after battling with a chronic health condition for years. Her death is a great loss to Queen Latifah and the rest of her family, but Latifah is also using this difficult time as an occasion to remember and honor a woman she calls, “the love of my life.”
In an exclusive statement made to PEOPLE, Queen Latifah shared that “She had struggled with a heart condition for many years and her battle is no over…I am heartbroken but know she is at peace.”
Owens’ suffered with heart failure over the last 13 years. With this chronic condition, the heart no longer has the ability to pump enough blood throughout the body. Owens has lived with this condition with the help of medication, a defibrillator and a special diet.
Her mother’s condition has lead Queen Latifah to work with the American Heart Association to educate people on heart failure and bring greater awareness to this condition.
Throughout her mother’s condition, Queen Latifah traveled back and forth from California to New Jersey, where her mother lived. But she wasn’t just visiting her mother. Queen Latifah was there to care for her mother, and to help nursing staff and her family tend to Owens.
These caregiving experiences taught Queen Latifah some some very important lessons. Queen Latifah told PEOPLE, “I’ve just learned how much you can love a person and just how strong my mother is. I’ve come to respect her in ways you can’t even imagine.”