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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

Death Shrouds


I woke up this morning ready to die.

I try to do this every morning.

I do it this way so I live more fully, with intention and on purpose.

In this post I’m going to tell you about what these shrouds are about. I’ll discuss:

  • The genesis and process

  • The intended use NOW

  • The intended use for loved ones later

  • The intended Use for you later

  • You should know going in I am HAPPY to discuss any of this with you, just contact me and

  • I stand ready to make a life-affirming, hang-where-you-can-see-it-now death shroud for you or a loved one - totally customized using your own meaningful library of symbols, just ask.

Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.

–Haruki Murakami 


Marti, You Do HappyArt So Why These Death Shrouds?

  • Living mindfully and well NOW confronting a depiction that symbolizes the impending transition from this life to what’s next can help you create daily plans that optimize this life you have right now.

  • Envisioning what’s next - spiritually or otherwise negotiating your own path through the dust storm of all available concepts to settle on a vision that uplifts, supports happiness and maximizes the potential for LOVE

  • Smoothing your transition for the ones you leave behind - in so many cases, even right here in San Miguel, you hear of the mad scramble of those left behind to pick up the pieces, attend to the details and otherwise close out the dead loved one’s life - at a time when it would be much nicer if they could attend to celebrating and grieving for this loss.

Not Too Long Ago, I Read This BOOK

“Die Wise: A Manifest for Sanity and Soul”

Author Stephen Jenkinson, a hospice worker, gives a passionate explanation of what’s missing in current US culture when it comes to dealing with the very real aspects of end of life and death preparation.


The Death Positive Movement

What does Death Positive mean?

Modern mortician Caitlin Doughty noticed a need and spent much of her life offering a new way to treat death in the USA.

  1. I believe that by hiding death and dying behind closed doors we do more harm than good to our society.

  2. I believe that the culture of silence around death should be broken through discussion, gatherings, art, innovation, and scholarship.

  3. I believe that talking about and engaging with my inevitable death is not morbid, but displays a natural curiosity about the human condition.

  4. I believe that the dead body is not dangerous, and that everyone should be empowered (should they wish to be) to be involved in care for their own dead.

  5. I believe that the laws that govern death, dying and end-of-life care should ensure that a person’s wishes are honored, regardless of sexual, gender, racial or religious identity.

  6. I believe that my death should be handled in a way that does not do great harm to the environment.

  7. I believe that my family and friends should know my end-of-life wishes, and that I should have ready for them the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.

  8. I believe that my open, honest advocacy around death can make a difference, and can change culture.

The Pieces I Prepared For A Gallery Show

As I began exploring this concept an opportunity arose where I was able to present this idea to an audience. Perfect timing! So I prepared a body of work, a collection of variously shaped shrouds to carry this message. I chose:

  • Shapes - kimonos, wraps, covers, folios

  • Symbols - death and infinity icons from the world over, DreamTime art

  • The concept of DreamTime and how it intersects with recent advances in quantum theory that embrace the concept of the multiverse. The non linear aspects of time. “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home.”

– Australian aboriginal proverb

Part of a wrap shroud that featured shapes inspired by Aboriginal DreamTime art

'Land is the starting point to where it all began. It is like picking up a piece of dirt and saying this is where I started and this is where I will go'  –Dreamtime Reality What IS Dreamtime? Dreamtime is the foundation of Aboriginal religion and culture. It dates back some 65,000 years. It is the story of how the universe came to be, how human beings, animals, landscape, landscape features and all things of this world were created

Aboriginal people understand the Dreamtime as a beginning that has never ended. They hold the belief that the Dreamtime is a period on a continuum of past, present and future that intertwines.


"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

—Mark Twain


My Own Spiritual Journey - Laying The Groundwork For Creating Shrouds

  • I believe we practice Dying when we sleep

  • I am drawn to the concept of the multiverse in Quantum Physics and the ancestrally passed down stories about Australian DreamTime seem to prove it

  • In the early aughts I created a dream land and then proceeded to offer visual and cultural evidence of it as a real place. It's called HapiLani -and speaks to the mind expanding nature of reality

Besides DreamTime Elements - OTHER Symbols I Use on the pieces

  • Cultural icons from across the world Infinity, Love, spiritual icons

  • Favorite events, concepts, beings

Each Shroud Has A Pocket

to hold information

  • For your loved ones to access - written or digital instructions (literally paper notes or a small flash drive)

  • To hold items you’d like to take with you


Detail from a larger full-body Kimono style shroud


From The Dalai Llama

It is crucial to be mindful of death -- to contemplate that you will not remain long in this life.

If you are not aware of death, you will fail to take advantage of this special human life that you have already attained.

It is meaningful since, based on it, important effects can be accomplished. 

Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetime during which you can perform many important practices.

Rather than being frightened, you need to reflect that when death comes, you will lose this good opportunity for practice.

In this way contemplation of death will bring more energy to your practice. 

You need to accept that death comes in the normal course of life.

—Dalia Llama


I Make these shrouds........

  • To use Now - to live mindfully, fully, aligned with your mortality Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. —unknown

  • To use at Death - for those you leave behind to reference to comfortably close out the legal and material aspects of your life, giving them plenty of emotional space to actually grieve and celebrate rather than scramble around gathering information from reluctant government and financial offices.

"It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but retire a little from sight and afterwards return again."

—Ralph Waldo Emerson


Death is more universal than life; everyone dies, but not everyone lives.

–Alan Sachs


What Goes In The Pockets Of Your Shrouds, Marti?


Is this you?

You saw an ad for burial plots, and thought to yourself “That’s the last thing I need!”

You’re not alone. 6 in 10 U.S. adults don’t have a will. Canadians a slightly better at 5 out of 10 adults.

Do you need to be rich to need an estate plan?

Absolutely not. At the most basic level, during your lifetime an estate plan allows someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself, and after your death, ensures that your assets and your wishes are carried out as smoothly as quickly as possible.

Do You Have an estate plan?

If you haven’t done one yet, why not?

Common Reasons People Give

  1. Procrastination as a way of life.

  2. Fear of tempting the evil eye.

  3. Not being able to decide who should inherit (or waiting to see who deserves it.)

  4. Not wanting to spend ANY money to take care of this “discretionary” item.

  5. Not wanting to discuss their personal business and/or finances with anyone.

  6. Thinking they’ll do it later, “when they need to”.

  7. Under valuing their assets…this usually happens when there is a house and no liquidity.

  8. Thinking they have all their assets passing directly, so a Will would be moot.  Sometimes this is true, but usually not.

  9. Guilt related to what departed persons (parents or grandparents) would think about what they want to do.

  10. Simply being a selfish, self-centered narcissist who doesn’t care what happens when they are gone.


“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

–Robert Fulghum

The Author of:

In a nutshell, you make plans now to ease the path for the ones you leave behind.

If you die without a will, it means you have died “intestate.” When this happens, the intestacy laws of the state where you reside will determine how your property is distributed upon your death. This includes any bank accounts, securities, real estate, and other assets you own at the time of death. Real estate owned in a different state than where you resided will be handled under the intestacy laws of the state where the property is located.

In Mexico:

If a foreigner with property in Mexico dies without a Will, the law provides that their property is divided proportionately between their legal spouse (and not common-law spouses) and their children. The process is complicated and requires the translation and certification of foreign documents such as marriage certificates, marriage contracts, birth certificates of the children and, if they are minors, the representation of those minors by an independent tutor in Mexico. The process can take more than a year to resolve and the property, in the interim, needs to be administered until they are transferred to the rightful heir. The cost can be considerable.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

By Abraham Lincoln

Extra Long Winding Sheet For An Urn

No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.


Celebrities who died without planning:

  • Abe Lincoln - and he was a lawyer!

  • Martin Luther King - who was getting a ton of death threats

  • Aretha Franklin

  • Prince, 57 - $200,000,000 plus

  • Michael Jackson, 50 - who knows how much $$$

  • Sonny Bono, 62

  • Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books)

  • Pablo Picasso

Small Cover For An Urn or Pillow For The Deceased's Head

Why we tend to shy away from preparing

  • Cultural denial

  • Personal denial

  • Overwhelming to do list

  • Indecision

Choosing stewards of this sensitive information

  • spouse

  • besties

  • family member

The benefits

  • Alleviates much stress on those you leave behind it who must make those end of life decisions

  • Provides a centralized location for closing out the legal aspects of your life

  • Allows for your funeral or memorial to features your wishes

Setting up your info

  • I've got a whole post full of resources right here.


Besides The "This-Plane-Of-Existence-Reality" practical considerations, also think about and prepare this kind of stuff:

What to bring to your afterlife

stated wishes for answers I’d like to have

  • People I want to see

  • Animals I want to rejoin

  • Concepts I want to learn

  • Things I want to impact

  • favorite quotes

  • seeds

  • sketches

  • photos



Estate Planning is for anyone who owns something they intend to leave to others upon their death. Period.

Here are some examples of who we’re talking about:

  • If you own your home and want your daughter to have it in the event you pass on, Estate Planning is for you!

  • If you own the furniture in the apartment you rent and you want to ensure it goes to the right people, Estate Planning is for you!

  • If you’re sitting on a collection of any type you wish to leave to an organization that might benefit from having it, Estate Planning is for you.

  • If you have some financial and other assets is, of course, also for you!

How to get started

  1. Discuss the issue of death openly with your family.

  2. Make yourself aware of the inheritance laws in your state. There are only nine community property states and inheritance laws can vary significantly from state to state. Don’t assume if you have a will that your wishes are set in stone. Some understanding of how property passes on death in the state of your primary residence will be helpful. Laws governing property division can be complicated, so you will want to know the details of how the laws are written in your state and how they may apply to you. This would be a good time to consult with an Estate Attorney.

  3.  If you find that you will need to hire an attorney, choose one that is qualified in estate, probate and tax planning who is highly rated by his or her peers.

  4. Here’s how to prepare for the consultation with your attorney: Get details on how fees will be charged. Familiarize yourself with inheritance laws in your state. Write down questions before your meeting. Be prepared to answer questions regarding your assets, guardianship decisions, medical preferences, end-of-life issues and more. Prepare to discuss the need for a will, the possible need for a trust and choosing an executor or trustee for your estate.

  5. Make sure your beneficiary selections are current and accurate. Life insurance, annuities, IRAs, 401(k), 403b is all passed by named beneficiary(s). To check on this, contact the company and request a copy of the current beneficiary assignment on file. If you need to update and change your beneficiaries, do so immediately. Once you have submitted the changes, request a letter from the receiving institution showing the account number and confirming the change. File the letter with your records file as proof of the update. Remember that the release of money due any assigned beneficiary is dependent on the institution receiving an accurate and legible death certificate.

  6. Consider setting up a joint checking account with your chosen executor or trustee. This arrangement will provide the necessary funds required to pay for funeral expenses, travel for family members, obituary costs, hiring people to help with various immediate needs, hotels for out-of-town family members, transportation, food and bills that come due during this time while waiting for accounts to be released and settlements to come through. Since the person you name as joint owner will “own” the account at your death, consider putting in the minimum amount needed to meet these emergency expenses.

  7. Set up a secure filing system that is easily accessible paper, digital flash drive, online set up access to trustworthy stewards of this info

  8. Secure a list of all passwords for your electronic files, online accounts, PIN numbers for debit accounts, codes to get into your vehicle(s), passwords for cellphones for you and your spouse as well as all social media usernames and passwords. 

  9. If you manage your investments, consider carefully who will handle this for you and when you may begin to involve them. Think through what would happen to your portfolio if your spouse or partner and children weren’t capable of continuing that work. The same is true regarding an extensive real-estate portfolio. This is your personal wealth, most of what you would be leaving to your spouse and your heirs, but it could be wiped out simply by not being attended to properly. 


That's A TON Of Info, Right?

You're Feeling Overwhelmed?

Contact me. Let's talk about it. Planning for your death can be a very positive, life-affirming process with me!


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