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Jewish Traditions

http://jewish-funerals.org/pending-just-and-after-death – this is the Kavod V’Nachum website

Pending Death – Goses
When death is imminent, the rabbi or other clergy should be notified. They will be available to give moral support to the family and to the dying person by praying with them and offering practical counsel and assistance.
You may also wish to prepare a list of persons to be notified after death occurs. You may wish to ask a friend or non-immediate family member to handle this notification task.
A person in his or her final moments of life is known as a goses, which means “dying”, or “moribund.” This word is derived from the sound heard coming from the throat as the chest cavity narrows. The Talmud teaches that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) stands at the head of the goses. This special status means that the dying individual should be treated as a living person in all respects and not as an object or as one to be avoided. Everything possible to save a person’s life is pursued even if it means transgressing Shabbat or aYom Tov. In the same vein, we do not take any action that would hasten a person’s death.
The presence of loved ones brings necessary and important psychological comfort to the goses, as well as meeting the emotional needs of those who love him/her. This final demonstration of love and concern provides all involved the assurance that they did all they could up to the very end. It also allows one to deal with grief directly and without the sense of guilt of not having done enough for the one who died.
If at all possible, the one who is dying should not be left alone. Try to limit conversations to those that meet the needs of the dying person. One should leave the room to eat, drink, or discuss extraneous matters with another visitor. Psalms and prayers may be recited to ease the loved-one’s passing. Psalms 23, 91, 103, 121,130 and 139 are particularly appropriate. Singing, telling stories, background music may all be comforting.
The dying person traditionally recites the Vidui, a confessional prayer. The prayer includes regret for all sins committed during one’s lifetime and is recognition of the fact that one is passing from this world to the next. Care should be taken that this does not distress the dying person. It should be explained that saying the Vidui does not mean that death is imminent. In fact, it may happen that a person says the Vidui and then recovers. The Vidui, followed by the recitation of the Sh’ma, in the last moments before death, help to affirm one’s faith in God precisely when it is most challenged. If the dying person is unable to recite this confessional, a person in attendance may recite the Vidui on that person’s behalf.
Death at Home
When death occurs in a home, the same procedures as below are applicable. Take the time you need to say goodbye. Once you are ready, arrange to have the body transported to the funeral home. (You may wish to have clergy make arrangements for removal of the body so the family does not have to.)
After the body is removed, the family living in the same home where the death occurred may wish to light a shiva candle (week-long burnng candle; see traditional jewish mourning practices) and have a friend clean up the room where the deceased died, restoring it to its normal appearance as much as possible. Mirrors should be covered and remain so through the end of shiva.

What to Do, Whom to Call Upon Death
What to Do
It is traditional for all those present to recite Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet (Praised is the True Judge) immediately upon death (or, if not present, upon learning of the death).
Mourners also perform kri’a (“tearing” of a piece of clothing), though this may be done before the funeral or the burial.

In addition, any of those present may assist with these steps:
* Close the eyes and mouth of the deceased and straighten the limbs.
* Cover the deceased with a sheet.
* Open the windows in the room where the deceased is lying. (If weather is an issue, open a window, then close it as needed.)
* Place a lighted candle near the head of the deceased (not done on Shabbat; on Yom Tov, kindle from a pre-existing flame).
* Cover the mirrors in the room where the deceased is lying. (If at home, cover all mirrors in the home.)
Before the body is picked up (usually by the funeral home) take time to say goodbye to the deceased, as much time as you need. Don’t let yourself be rushed.
The deceased should not be left unattended, so right after death, one begins sh’mira (“watching” of the body).
If the deceased died in a hospital or other medical setting, medical personnel may remove tubes, needles, etc.

Whom to Call
If you have made pre-need arrangements, you will likely have a handy list of phone numbers for final arrangements. [See Planning Ahead for Death.] In any case, here is a simple list of steps to be taken:
* If the family is affiliated with a synagogue, contact the rabbi. Ask if there is a preferred way to contact the funeral home.
* If the family is unaffiliated, contact the funeral home.
* If a traditional burial is desired, contact (or have the rabbi contact) the Chevra Kadisha the sacred burial team who prepares the body for burial. (This preparation task is often done by the funeral home, or they make contact a community or synagogue-affiliated Chevra Kadisha.)
* Contact the important family members of the deceased to inform them of the death. As appropriate, let them know that arrangements are still being determined and that you will keep them informed.
The funeral home will likely make arrangements for the body of the deceased to be picked up.
Note: If this is not a natural death (such as a violent death), or if the deceased is an organ or tissue donor, the pattern may differ in some respects.
What if we don’t have burial plots?
Usually consultation with clergy can facilitate purchase of an appropriate cemetery plot. This can be taken care of while making the other burial arrangements.

The closest Chevra Kadisha to Alamosa is the Chevra Kadisha of Northern New Mexico out of Santa Fe: (575) 418-3618,

VIDUI – confessional
Though there’s nothing wrong with saying it at a different time. If needed, the prayer can be recited more than once. There’s no superstition attached to it, it’s not as though saying it “too soon” will somehow bring death sooner, there’s nothing wrong with saying it and then surviving and getting to say it again another day. What the tradition teaches is, when death is imminent (whatever that means to you), it’s appropriate for the ill person (or someone else on his/her behalf) to offer a vidui. Here’s the version of that prayer which is found in the Reform Rabbi’s Manual:
Deathbed Vidui
My God and God of all who have gone before me, Author of life and death, I turn to You in trust. Although I pray for life and health, I know that I am mortal. If my life must soon come to an end, let me die, I pray, at peace.
If only my hands were clean and my heart pure! I confess that I have committed sins and left much undone, yet I know also the good that I did or tried to do. May my acts of goodness give meaning to my life, and may my errors be forgiven.
Protector of the bereaved and the helpless, watch over my loved ones. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; redeem it, O God of mercy and truth.
יְיָ מֶֽלֶךְ, יְיָ מַלַך, יְיָ יִמְלֹך לְעוֹלָם וַעֵד / Adonai melech Adonai malach Adonai yimloch l’olam va’ed. 
(God reigns; God has reigned; God will reign forever and ever.)
בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. / Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed. 
(Blessed be God’s name whose glorious dominion is forever.)
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְיָ אֶחָֽד: Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai echad. 
(Hear, O Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.)
Here is an alternative vidui prayer — one which speaks in slightly more Jewish Renewal language:

Alternative Deathbed Vidui
I acknowledge before the Source of All that life and death are not in my hands. Just as I did not choose to be born, so I do not choose to die.
May my life be a healing memory for those who knew me.
May my loved ones think well of me, and may my memory bring them joy. From all those I may have hurt, I ask forgiveness.
To all who have hurt me, I grant forgiveness.
As a wave returns to the ocean, so I return to the Source from which I came.
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְיָ אֶחָֽד: Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai echad. 
(Hear, O Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.)

Jewish tradition acknowledges that death is real, that it will happen to all of us, that it is natural and normal. I’m thinking here of our funeral customs, including the gentle washing and dressing of the body performed by the chevra kadisha, and of the custom of burying our dead in simple linen garments and biodegradable pine boxes. No wreaths of cut flowers, no embalming or cosmetics to allow us to pretend for the duration of the funeral that our loved one is merely “sleeping.) For those who walk the mourner’s path we have the traditions of shiva and shloshim (the first week and month of mourning), the recitation of the mourner’s kaddish, and other prayers and psalms to help ourselves heal and perhaps to help the soul of our loved one ascend along its path. For those who are caring for mourners we have a rich tradition of nichum avelim, comforting the bereaved.
But for those who are preparing to die, the vidui is one of our most powerful tools for cultivating acceptance and for letting go gracefully and at peace.