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I was visiting a deacon from my church in the hospital after he suffered a stroke related to diabetes. He was recovering in a room with a very old frail Jewish woman whose daughter stayed at her bedside until she died (while I was there visiting).

The woman looked old enough to have babysat Moses. It was obvious she wasn't there to get better. I never heard a death rattle before, but when the woman began wheezing I knew what it was. Her daughter began almost screaming for her mother to not go so fast because the rest of the family was in a lounge on another floor watching tv waiting for the call that the woman was passing.

The on duty nurse heard the daughter's cries and came running in and apologized to us for her outburst, but it didn't bother me. The daughter complained to us that it was tradition for the whole family to be present when someone died, and they missed it. I didn't say anything.

Does anyone here have a better explanation for this tradition? I didn't see the woman's spirit leaving or anyone come to claim it.
Does anyone here have a better explanation for this tradition? I didn't see the woman's spirit leaving or anyone come to claim it.


No I have no knowledge of it but I do know a Jewish friend whom I will ask when I see her.

Maybe someone else will know or know where to look for the answer
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Maybe it's not specifically a 'Jewish Tradition'. Probably it is the way it was in all societies. It could be that when most deaths occurred at home, and the family lived in the same village, or close by, they would all gather around the bed of the dying one - and important milestone in the story of that family and a 'goodbye' to a loved one.

My husband and I have been visiting his sister in a Hospice. There is usually between 3 - 6 people in her room; (at one point yesterday there were 8 visitors in the room visiting her): family, friends and neighbours. I thought it may be exhausting her - she says she is exhausted - but she said that it's not too many and she loves having the people she loves around her.

dnix71, what do you think might be a 'better explanation'?

When someone dies it isn't usual for the witnesses to actually see the spirit leaving, but when someone is dead, they really do look dead - you can see when the life is gone from the body.
My mother was close to her mother and got her a nice nursing home room nearby when Pauline couldn't take care of herself anymore. Mom was called to the home after Pauline died and told me even though she hadn't been dead long, she didn't look like her anymore.

In times past a dying patriarch would be asked who was to succeed him, like when Bathsheba asks David if Solomon was really to be king, because one of his brothers was going around claiming the throne. In Jacob (Israel)'s case he told his sons the future "The evil that will befall you in the end of days" from his deathbed.

If the woman was Japanese, the children would have been there out of fear. They are taught that the spirits of the dead can reward or punish the living, so children are nice to their elderly parents out of fear their spirits will return to harm them if they don't.

This Jewish woman was so old and frail I wanted to tell her daughter to just let her go. She couldn't do anything here anymore except lay in bed and wait to die. If you can't see across the divide between this world and the next when someone dies you don't know if you have lost the relationship forever. I think her daughter just didn't know where her mother was going.

When Jesus was on the cross his cry "Eli, eli" was mistaken as a cry to the prophet Elias. People standing around said "He calls for Elias, lets see who comes to claim him." The Romans did executions in public as a deterrent, so maybe they had seen angels or other spirits come to claim the dying.
When the spirit leaves the body it looks like a waxwork model - also, suddenly much smaller.

I rather like the idea of Japanese kids being nice to their parents in case of posthumous retribution - ;)
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