Thursday, November 29, 2012
I am a 42 year old woman who has made it to level 37 in Smurfs Village on the IPad. Don’t smurf me. I started playing the game when my husband and I first bought our IPad as a shared anniversary gift two years ago. The Smurfs game was free, and a nostalgic reminder of the days when I would wake up early on Saturday mornings, grab my cereal, and watch Smurf cartoons.
Fast forward thirty years and I still enjoy cartoons and a bowl of Count Chocula every now and again. When I’m not smurfing around, my purpose in life is to create conversations about death and dying. I am a thanatologist, hospice social worker, and big advocate for quality of life at end of life. People always ask if hospice is depressing and I always say no. Being with the dying has taught me that I better enjoy living, while I still can. I do not think I would have the appreciation for life, were it not for my understanding that our time is limited.
In many ways, the Smurfs Village is a microcosm of an idyllic society. Smurfs are happy little creatures, each with their own identity and role. They keep themselves busy building houses, baking bread and planting pumpkins. Smurfs also have a strong sense of community; when Gargamel poses a threat, the Smurfs join together to go fight him off in the forest. It seems like nothing bad ever actually happens in Smurfs Village though, except if you don’t tend the vegetables, you’ll lose them.
About halfway through my Smurfs Village game, a new Smurf was introduced. Dreamy Smurf came in on the S.S. Smurf II and talked about faraway places. He had big dreams and he would get other Smurfs excited about joining him on his adventures.
Last week, Dreamy Smurf said something that I never expected I would see in a children’s game. He said he was working on his “Bucket List.” The other Smurf asked him what a Bucket List was, and Dreamy said something along the lines of, “It is a list of things you want to do before you die.”
What?! Smurfs die?! I was so shocked that I accidentally tapped the screen before I could get a picture of the discussion. Fortunately the Smurfs continued to talk about Dreamy’s list over the course of the game. It was a smooth transition from the mention of death to the subject of life, and the message was simple: life is limited. Dreamy Smurf is quite ambitious and is working through his Bucket List of goals. I am still playing the game, so I cannot tell you how it ends, but isn’t that just like life? We do not know how or when it is going to end.
As a final thought, I’m not one to smurf, but perhaps Dreamy Smurf might have set his sights a little low when he decided to get a new hat as one of his Bucket List goals. The other Smurf did say he thought that Dreamy could be a bit more creative. Yet, his third Bucket List item was to express his feelings for Smurfette. What a great message for everyone – express your feelings to the ones you love.
The Smurfs Village gets an A+ for creativity. The mere fact that Dreamy Smurf introduced the Bucket List is a big win for death education in American society. While we do have excellent children’s literature like Lassie and Charlotte’s Web that teach about death, the concept of the Bucket List takes the lesson about death one step further. It answers the question, “So what?”
Now that we’ve accepted that our lives are limited, what do we do? We identify what is important to us and we set forth to make those people or activities a priority. My method for getting out of my head and enjoying the moment is playing Smurfs Village. I may not be currently visiting faraway lands like Dreamy, but visits to Australia and New Zealand are on my Bucket List.
Lizzy Miles, MA, MSW, LSW has experienced double-digit losses in her own life and recognized her life's purpose was to help others to navigate the transition to end of life. Lizzy is a hospice social worker, thanatologist and the founder of the first Death Cafe in the United States. She is also the Social Media and networking chair of the Association for Death Education and Counseling and has presented her research at national and international conferences. Lizzy authored a book about her positive hospice experiences entitled Somewhere In Between: The Hokey Pokey, Chocolate Cake and the Shared Death Experience.