"Brutus, why does this man follow such a profession?" "For money, Caesar. He tells me he wants to die rich." "And so he shall. Give him this sack of gold and then strangle him."
So, it's the end. Someone you know is about to bite it, having fought the good fight and, well, lost. But it's okay, you tell them; the battle's as good as won, the reinforcements will be here soon, and everything will be all right. And so they pass on happy, secure in the knowledge that everything's okay.
Well, that's a lie. There aren't reinforcements coming. In fact, you look pretty screwed. But, hey. At least your friend died happy, right?
Let Them Die Happy is what happens when one character gives another one last thing to hope for, even if said thing doesn't technically exist. Sure, they may be pissed off when they get to the afterlife (if there is such a thing in the setting), but at least they were happy in their darkest hour. Right?
Compare Go Out with a Smile
, for when the dying character smiles for the sake of their surviving loved one, and The Power of Legacy
, where the lie is being told by another on behalf of the dead for the sake of the living. Not to be confused with Died Happily Ever After
, when a character is "released" and finally at peace after his death.
As this is a Death Trope, spoilers will be unmarked.
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Anime and Manga
- In Attack on Titan, Levi at one point tells a dying soldier that he fought well and helped by time. This may or may not have been a lie, but the man seems to relax as he dies.
- Death Note. Light's father Soichiro, the lead Japanese investigator in the Kira case, dies happily convinced that his son isn't Kira. He was wrong.
- However, in the live-action movies, he lives to know the truth.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Maya and Makoto meet their ends in "End of Evangelion" by bursting into LCL while being embraced by illusions of their unrequited crushes, Ritsuko and Misato, respectively.
- In Weiß Kreuz, When Tot is stabbed to almost death by Farfarello and a grieving Nagi uses his telekinesis to crash the whole mansion where this happened, the Weiss guys look at their dying enemies sadly, link their hands together and leave. It later turns out they're not dead, but the others won't find out for a long time.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaa does this for a girl fatally injured when the airship on which she was a hostage is attacked by insects and crashes. The girl (a foreign princess) begs Nausicaa to make sure the cargo (a devastating weapon) is destroyed. Nausicaa assures her that everything is burning, nothing is left. The girl dies smiling, her last words, "Thank God."
- Perhaps not played entirely straight since Nausicaa did believe that everything was destroyed. She just doesn't find out until later that the cargo survived the fire.
- In Code Geass: Suzaku tells Euphemia that her plan to give the Japanese their freedom was a success; what she doesn't remember is that she was the victim of Mind Control that made her go on a genocidal rampage against the people she had sought to help.
- In the second season, when the Black Knights betray Lelouch, Rolo rescues him, using his Geass so much that it overtaxes his body. As Rolo dies, Lelouch asks why he did it, especially considering that Lelouch had raged at Rolo earlier for the events of the previous Wham Episode; Rolo responds "I knew you were lying. You really do care about me, don't you Brother?" With a sad smile on his face, Lelouch says that he does, and Rolo dies.
- Except there is a high chance that Lelouch was telling the truth. He's complicated like that.
- Averted with Deithard, as Lelouch coldly refuses the final request of a dying Deithard who asks to experience the power of Lelouch's Geass, after Lelouch has his Geassed half-brother Schneizel shoot point-blank his former number-one-fan.
- Yamamoto promises Rukia before her execution that he will allow Ichigo and his friends to return home unharmed, when he actually has no intention of doing this. This is subverted: mere minutes later, Ichigo shows up and rescues her.
- In the movie Memories of Nobody, as Senna is dying, she instructs Ichigo to take her to the graveyard in which she was buried to prove that she is actually a real person who was alive, and not just a collection of memories. Unable to see, she asks Ichigo to tell her if her name is written on the tombstone. The tombstone is so weathered the name can no longer be read, but Ichigo assures Senna that it's her name.
- Happens accidentally to Ulquiorra. During the Arrancar arcs, a large part of character development was spend on him questioning what emotions, or a heart, are. His final moments after pretty much seeing his plan go to Hell are spent on him contemplating one of his more famous quotes. Reaching out to Orihime, he asks if she's afraid, and she replies that she isn't and reaches out to hold Ulquiorra's hand. There, it clicks and he realizes what a "heart" really is, and dies as happily as a Social Darwinist Manipulative Bastard like him can.
- When Byakuya is dying, Ichigo rushes to his side and Byakuya asks if Renji and Rukia are alive. Ichigo says they are, but hides the fact they're in terrible condition. subverted: Byakuya lapses into a coma but doesn't die.
- In the Get Backers anime, Ban Midou uses his Jagan on his Stalker with a Crush Takuma Fudou for the last time, giving Fudou the illusion that he and Ban are rapturously going at it, when in fact in reality Ban has actually already fatally wounded him and he's lying on the ground dying. The expression of sheer joy on his face when he finally dies (while he's still in the illusion) is akin to pure bliss.
- In the manga, one of the first chapters has Ban and Ginji accepting a job from a poor old man to rescue his daughter who was taken by the mafia. After reaching her, she reveals that she has come to like the rich lifestyle of the mafia and betrays the two. After fighting their way out, Ban and Ginji return to the old man to report their failure only to discover that he had been mugged and brutally beaten. As the old man lay dying, Ban uses his Hypnotic Eyes to give him the illusion that his daughter came back to him.
- Late in the first season of Gundam 00, the Ptolemaios is destroyed while Lichty and Christina are inside. He shields her by embracing her, and as they float in the ruins of the ship, he dies happy, thinking that he protected her. After he dies, the camera pans to show a large piece of shrapnel embedded in Christina's spacesuit - she dies only moments later. It's important to note that this is an example because Christina assures him before hand that he succeeded. Not even the audience realizes the truth until the camera reveals she was already fatally wounded. Then, just to erase any doubt, the remains of the bridge explodes, consuming both of them.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, after he fatally injures Yumi, Shishio openly tells Kenshin that he understands her and has given her what she wanted (and Yumi herself confirms this, saying she knew this would happen but did so to stop being a mere Neutral Female), then holds the dying Yumi in his arms as she expires declaring his loyalty and love for him. Technically subverted, since Shishio did care for Yumi... well, as much as a Magnificent Bastard like him could, anyway. And they're later together in Hell, so.
- Used by Irresponsible Captain Tylor's Worthy Opponent Dom towards Raalgon admiral Donan when later asks if the solar flare destroying his entire fleet got Tylor's Soyokaze as well. He tells him he got his revenge even though Tylor of course survived.
- In Basilisk, Saemon allows the dying Hotarubi to die believing he's her dead husband Yashamaru. Even more meaningful because he is the one who fatally mutilated her, as they're Ninjas in a fatal feud and her clansmen were responsible for the loss of Saemon's little sister - and yet when the dying girl calls him by the name of her husband, he can't bring himself to say he's not the dead dude, and nods so she will die in peace.
- When John dies in Ginga Densetsu Weed, the group that finds him tells him that a thousand soldiers of Ohu have come to overpower Hougen's army. Hiro begs him to hang on for just five more minutes so that they can make Hougen bow down in submission at his paws. Unfortunately, John's never liked waiting for anything, death included.
- Subverted in Monster: with the last bit of his strength, Roberto asks Johan to share with him the vision they have been working towards. Johan tells him that he can't see it. Ouch.
- Elfen Lied: During Bandou's final confrontation with Lucy in the manga, he ends up torn in half, and doesn't see if his bullet manages to hit Lucy or not. He asks Nana and Mayu where she is - Nana is about to tell him the truth, but Mayu interrupts and tells him he'd finally killed her. He seems to die smiling, but he later returns in the final chapter with a prosthetic overhaul.
- In One Piece during Brook's flashback he first attempts to comfort his sick captain (who has ordered them to abandon him before more are infected) by promising that they'll meet again; Yorki does smile, but it's vague whether either of them believes it. Later Brook tells his mortally wounded crew that they don't have to die with regrets, his own power will revive him after he dies and he'll fulfill the promise they all made to return to their Team Pet. They die smiling. When Brook is revived, we see how unlikely a promise that really was.
- Dragon Ball Z: When Vegeta is revived to fight Majin Buu, he is pissed at Goku for not using Super Saiyan 3 during their earlier fight, believing Goku to have been invoking this trope, tricking him into dying happy.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes: Schönkopf reassures the dying Blumhardt that Yang Wen-li, their leader whom Blumhardt was trying to protect, is alive and well. He isn't.
- At some point in Tenkuu Senki Shurato, Shurato and Co. find their ally Mayuri transformed into a Human Pincushion. Mayuri asks them about the well-being of his Battle Couple partner Saras... only that Saras has already died through Taking the Bullet for Shurato. Hyuuga doesn't have the heart to tell that to the dying Mayuri, though, and says Saras is wounded but will join them later; Mayuri smiles weakly and says "I-is that so...?" — and dies few seconds afterwards.
- Used humorously in K, with Kuroh Yatogami when he's out to get main character Yashiro. The first time he was willing to do Yashiro a last favor for the sake of his ill little sister and the second time he was willing to make Yashiro a nice last meal.
- Subverted in Another: As Izumi dies in Kouichi's arms, she asks him if he remembers the time they first met. He responds with a flat "No." She even calls him out on this.
- In Itsuwaribito Utsuho tells the mortally wounded head of his orphanage that all the other orphans were safe and sound after a bandit attack and were waiting outside for him right now. The man passes away right after hearing this, with a large smile on his face. In truth, all of the orphans had been killed in the attack and Utsuho is lying because the truth would have devastated the man.
- In Snow White And Seven Dwarfs, upon learning that Uzuki—an enemy—had been brainwashed into loyalty towards the Big Bad via having her memories rewritten and realizing that, on her deathbed, her real memories were starting to conflict with her fake ones, Takeru reassures her that the Big Bad is a great and amazing person so as to let her die fulfilled.
- At the end of the Marvel miniseries Wisdom, Pete Wisdom's girlfriend has been turned into a living portal, bringing the Martians from The War of the Worlds into modern-day London. Pete and his girlfriend try to find a way out of this that doesn't result in her death. Pete finally comes up with the idea that there may be something in the archives that helps them... and as Pete's girlfriend runs for the stairwell, happy that there might be a way out of this that doesn't involve anyone dying, Pete puts a bullet in the back of her head, closing the gate.
- In an early issue of New Teen Titans, Raven does this for the villain, Grant Wilson; as he lies dying she shows him a false vision of the Titans' lifeless bodies, letting him think he'd fulfilled his mission to kill them.
- In the DC The Books of Magic series evil Industrial Age reverend turned robot Slagginham dies and his chimney sweep former ward who was lost in another dimension turned into an ash monster assures that the person who killed Slagginham, main character Timothy Hunter, died as well. Said ward immediately tries to make said statement true. Though since Tim is basically an avatar of all the magic in the world, he has little luck and is later turned into a puppy. This was a really weird series. And Slagginham died because Tim's imaginary TV repair-man friend caused him to commit suicide by pointing out his plan to make himself happier by making other people more miserable and thus freeing up the world's supply of happy wouldn't work. No, I'm not making any of this up.
- Averted in Superman & Batman: Generations (an Elseworlds story where characters age in real time): a dying Joker's final wish is to know Batman's true identity. Batman (who at this point is Bruce Wayne Jr.) refuses because, as he puts it, "You're the last person I'd want to see die happy."
- In the "Cursed Earth" epic storyline of Judge Dredd, the alien Tweak gives punk biker Spikes Harvey Rotten the mineral rights to his home planet (as Tweak was its leader) just before the final battle. Spikes went into combat happy, knowing that he was (in theory) immensely rich. Tweak then admitted to Dredd that his precognitive powers had assured him that Spike would not live to claim his prize.
- In one tie-in prequel to the film Rednote , Frank gets assigned an inexperienced partner who screws up their mission. That evening, while they're walking along a bridge, Frank gets off the phone with their superiors and convinces his partner not to worry about his mistake, that it'll blow over. Of course, the call was actually an order to kill him, so as he relaxes and turns to admire the view, Frank shoots him in the back of the head and dumps his body into the water.
- In The Sandman, Morpheus enlists John Constantine in his quest to find his pouch of Dream Sand. They find out it is in the hands of one of John's ex-girlfriends, Rachel, who has been using it as a way to escape her worries — with dire consequences. Her metabolism has been nearly destroyed by her use of the sand, and she's well on her way into a slow, ugly death. John furiously states that Morpheus cannot just leave her to suffer and die in pain. Morpheus complies, and uses the Sand to give the dying Rachel one last sweet dream: being reunited with John, whom she never stopped loving. She passes away in her sleep.
Films — Animated
- In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: Kadaj is about to die, in the last minute Aerith talks to him, pretending to be his "mother," so he can leave at peace, and dissolves in the Lifestream.
- In Monsters vs. Aliens the monsters are trapped on a ship thats about to self destruct and are saying goodbye to each other. B.O.B. misunderstands, and says he will see them tomorrow for lunch. They humor him and tell him that, yes we will have lunch tomorrow, with cake and balloons.
B.O.B: I'll see you guys tomorrow. For lunch.
Dr.Cockroach: That's right, Bob. There'll be candy, cake, balloons.
B.O.B.: Cake and balloons for lunch? It's gonna be the best day ever! I love you guys.
- Happens in the Disney version of The Prince and the Pauper. Mickey, disguised as the prince is summoned to the dying king's bedchamber. With his last words, the king asks Mickey to promise him that he will rule "justly and wisely." Mickey does.
Films — Live-Action
- In My Giant, the titular character, Maximus reveals to his friend, Sam (Billy Crystal), that he has spent the last decade pining after Liliana, a woman he had a minor fling with as a teenager. Max, it is discovered, only has a short time to live due to a heart condition, so Sam decides to go find this woman. Unfortunately, she very much does not share Max's feelings, and refuses to visit. Faced with breaking his dying friend's heart, Sam instead asks his wife to visit Max and pretend to be Liliana. She agrees, and tells Max that though she has married someone else, she still thinks fondly of him, and that he will always be "her Maximus," allowing him to die a happy man.
- Tae Guk Gi: When long-lost brothers Jin-Tae and Jin-Soek meet again on a battlefield during the Korean War, Jin-Tae tells his younger brother to save himself, and reassures him that they will meet again later. He even tells him where to wait. Jin-Tae then turns back into the fray, sacrificing himself to cover Jin-soek's escape. Jin-soek doesn't find out that his brother never made it out until decades later, when historians unearth his body.
- Near the end of The Magnificent Seven, Harry Luck, a money-hungry gunslinger, is fatally wounded. Although the Seven are only being paid $20 for their services, plus food and lodging during their stay, Harry is convinced that there must be some sort of secret wealth involved. With his dying breaths, he tells his friend Chris that he'd "hate to die a sucker" and asks one more time what the big secret was, prompting Chris to assure him that they were fighting for "Gold. Sacks of it."
Harry: I'll be damned. (dies)
Chris: Maybe you won't be.
- The Last Starfighter. As the con-man Centauri lies dying:
Centauri: Does he have my money, Alex?
Grig: I have a fortune for you, Centauri.
Alex: It's here. It's all here. Piles and piles of it. All for you.
Centauri: Ah. At last.
- Unfortunately for all involved, Centauri gets better.
- The plotline in the third act of The Invention of Lying is set off when our hero does this to comfort his dying mother. What does he do? He invents Heaven.
- In keeping with the dark humor of In Bruges, Harry Waters tries to do this for Ray Cranham before he orders him killed. Harry is affronted when it fails spectacularly. "What do you mean it's not really his thing? It's a fairytale town, isn't it? How's a fairytale town not somebody's fucking thing?"
- In a deleted scene from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Max carries the dying Gekko to the top of a sand dune and shows him the lights of Bartertown, saying that they've found Tomorrow-Morrow-Land.
- Subverted in Goodbye Lenin. After Alex stages an elaborate charade to keep his mother from finding out about German reunification and possibly dying from shock, his girlfriend secretly tells her everything. When his mother does die, she's pretending not to know for Alex's own happiness.
- As is the custom in Japan (according to this movie, anyway), Watanabe in Ikiru is not told that he has a life-threatening illness for this reason. It fails utterly, since another patient warns him ahead of time that an overly rosy diagnosis means impending death.
- In Highlander, Connor MacLeod watches his wife grow old and frail while he remains young due to his immortality. At the end she begs him to let her die in peace, so he begins telling her a comforting story. She dies somewhere in the middle and he doesn't notice until he finishes and looks at her.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, minutes before a nuclear device is about to go off and take out all of Gotham, Blake tells a bunch of kids to stay in a bus on an adjacent bridge, telling them they'll be safe there, knowing that they can't escape the blast radius. Subverted in that Batman successfully gets the bomb out of Gotham in time.
- In The Green Mile, Paul and Brutal tell death row inmate Delacroix that they'll take his pet mouse Mr. Jingles to a place called Mouseville in Florida, where he'll become a circus mouse that people will pay to see perform. Cruelly subverted when Percy tells Delacroix that Mouseville isn't real moments before he sabotages his execution, forcing him to die a Cruel and Unusual Death.
- In The Majestic, Harry mistakes Peter for his son Luke (a local boy who died in the war), and Peter believes him for a while thanks to a case of Easy Amnesia. Peter recovers his memory just before Harry suffers a major heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. At his bedside, Peter almost confesses but decides to let him die thinking that his son truly came home.
- In Rocky III, Mickey has a heart attack just before Rocky and Clubber Lang's first match. As a result, he doesn't see Rocky get the tar beaten out of him, and is simply told that the match "ended in the second round with a knockout". While technically true, it wasn't Lang who got knocked out. However, Mickey interprets it as Rocky's win, and with that, he dies with a smile on his face.
- A variation in Apollo 13 as the titular spacecraft is finally about to re-enter the atmosphere after so much has gone wrong, mission control sees they are drifting off course.
RETRO: Flight, they're still shallowing a bit up there. Do you want to tell tell them?
Gene Krantz: Anything we can do about it?
RETRO: Not now, Flight.
Gene Krantz: Then they don't need to know, do they?
RETRO: Copy that.
- In The Wolfman (2010), Lawrence dies in the end, but he stays alive for a few moments to reassure and thank Gwen for "setting him free." However, he dies before learning that he has bitten Aberline and cursed him as well. He could also be happy from realizing that since he was still alive to that point meant he had succeeded in defeating his father, meaning neither of them will hurt anyone again. However, this only makes the ending more tragic when we find out what becomes of Aberline.
- In Ikiru, this is attempted due to the paternalistic medicine being practiced (see Real Life) - but Watanabe is told how to interpret such news by another patient at the clinic, successfully deciphiring that the platitudes he was being fed meant he had cancer. Thankfully, he managed to grant this trope to himself.
- In Fire Bringer, when one of the Outriders is mortally wounded, Bandach responds to his despairing assertion that he's the last of the outriders by invoking this trope. "You're wrong, Salen. You're not the last of the Outriders. I saw Captain Brechin escape over the hills." Brechin was already dead and Bandach had seen it happen. Salen is described as giving a sigh of relief. "I knew it. They'll never take Brechin..."
- Of Mice and Men ends with George comforting Lennie as best as he can, then shooting him before the lynch mob can find him.
- Stephen King's The Green Mile:
- The guards try to do this for Delacroix by telling him that they'll take his pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, to a mouse circus to entertain kids. Percy, however, can't resist very meanly bursting that bubble while Delacroix is sitting in the electric chair (after trying to burst it by killing the mouse, and would've been successful at this if not for John Coffey's healing touch). This, if anything, makes his actual execution, where he is quite literally fried alive because Percy had neglected to properly soak the sponge for proper electrical conduction as a means of "punishing" Del one last time, all the more horrific.
- Apart from Percy, this is a standard policy of the guards on Death Row. As Paul notes, keeping the inmates happy results in less muss and fuss when the day of execution finally arrives. The night before execution, Bitterbuck asks Paul if he feels that a man can enter Heaven if he truly feels sorry for what he's done; Paul replies in the affirmative, even though he's certain Bitterbuck is going to Hell for what he's done.
- In Fablehaven book 5, Coulter is killed after returning from a visit to the past. after the battle has been won and the world saved from evil, Seth requests that someone go back in time and meet up with Coulter to tell him that they win, so he can die in peace, knowing his sacrifice was not in vain.
- In Wuthering Heights, Edgar Linton is able to die happy surrounded by his family, completely unaware that Heathcliff has control of his estate and is unabated in his quest to ruin the lives of Linton's family.
- In Lirael, Lirael and Sam attempt to rescue a group of Southerlings being attacked by the dead. They fail, defeating the dead but not before every Southerling is killed. Lirael tells the only survivor that the others got away moments before he dies from his wounds.
- In Random Passage, Ned and his son Isaac are attacked by a bear. By the time Ned's wife reaches them, Isaac is already dead and Ned is mortally wounded. Ned asks Mary if his son got away safely and she tells him that Isaac is just fine.
- Cyrano tells a dying Christan that Roxanne chose him.
- A very dark example from Mario Puzo's The Last Don. A dying Hollywood mogul imagines a devoted nurse trying desperately to resuscitate him. But he's seen too many of his own movies: in fact, she is dozing in the next room and didn't hear the alarm.
- In Andre Norton's The Crystal Gryphon, Toross was mortally wounded rescuing Joisan from the Hounds of Alizon. She told him as he died that if she hadn't been engaged to someone else, she would've been glad to marry him. The truth is, she was fond of him, but "glad to marry him" was an exaggeration, despite Toross being handsome, charming, etc. She just never really thought of him that way.
- Norton's Judgement on Janus: it doesn't involve a spoken lie, but the main character begins the book by selling himself into slavery to buy hallucinogenic drugs so his dying mother will go in the midst of happy dreams.
- In one of Lymond Chronicles books by Dorothy Dunnett, Christian — who is blind — was mortally injured trying to smuggle back the papers that could prove Lymond's innocence. When he arrives, she excitedly hands them to him. He thanks her happily — despite the fact that they're all blank.
- Les Misérables:
- In her last moments, Eponine asks for a kiss from Marius, with whom she has been silently and vainly in love for months. He obliges.
- Jean Valjean tries to let Fantine die happy, but unlike in the more well-known stage version of the scene, Javert arrives while she is still alive and insists on telling her the truth. Valjean is not happy.
- In The Host by Stephenie Meyer, an old man, Walter, is dying from cancer. Delirious, he believes Wanda, the main character, is his deceased wife, Gladys, despite the lack of any resemblance between the two women. She lets him believe this until his death, so he can die peacefully.
- In Mark Twain's "Was It Heaven? Or Hell?" the aunts of a woman dying of typhoid fever carry out an elaborate charade to convince her that her daughter, who's dying of the same disease is well and happy in quarantine, complete with forged notes.
Live Action TV
- An episode of Hustle has Danny posing as an ex-mobster's long lost son to get close to his swag. At the end of the episode, the ex-mobster has a fatal heart attack, and Danny gives up his chance to get at the swag to stand by the old man's side, making him glad that he found his son.
- The series finale of Angel: Illyria comforts a dying Wesley by taking on the appearance of Fred and telling him that everything will be all right. Both emphasized and slightly subverted by her first asking permission to lie to him; they'd earlier established that he couldn't live with her pretending to be Fred to him.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Nasty subversion of this at the end of the series. Spike is saving the day but also burning up in the sunlight. As he's dying, Buffy says she loves him. Spike responds, "No you don't, but thanks for saying it."
- Played heartbreakingly straight at the end of "I Was Made To Love You". As April, the abandoned robot girlfriend, slowly runs out of power, she tries to convince herself that Warren is coming back, and Buffy assures her that he will.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined):
- Kat stays behind in a radioactive region longer than is safe to make sure all the civilian ships get through. Afterwards, Adama visits her in sickbay and says that he's promoted her to CAG. She dies of radiation poisoning soon afterward, but for that brief time she was indeed officially CAG.
- On Kobol, Tyrol tells a mortally wounded Socinus the group is about to be rescued and he's going to be fine - while administering a lethal dose of morpha.
- In an episode of House, a woman is dying of rabies. Foreman, who up until now has been cold toward her because personal issues prevent him from sympathizing with the homeless, comforts her pretending to be her husband. She's too sick to tell the difference. Making it even sadder, the reason her husband isn't there is because he and their infant son are already dead. They died in a car accident — and she was the driver. She had fallen apart from guilt and became homeless and destitute when she contracted rabies. Foreman helped absolve her of the guilt that had plagued her for years.
- In an odd subversion, an episode of Ally McBeal featured a client who sued to be put back into a coma where she had a husband and a family full of loving children and grandchildren — none of which she had in her normal life.
- In Veronica Mars, Veronica tells the dying Abel Koontz that his daughter couldn't be by his side because she's climbing Mount Everest, and it would take days if not weeks to return. In truth, she had been murdered several days earlier.
- Averted, and then subverted in the Grey's Anatomy episode "Losing My Mind" for a truly heart-wrenching outcome.
- After much consternation, averted on General Hospital when Robin opts to tell her days-away-from-death boyfriend that she did contract HIV from him. A conversation between Luke and Sonny later on actually debates whether Robin would have been better off letting him die believing that he did not give her the virus.
- Toshiko in Torchwood does this for Owen, to the extent that he can die happy given the circumstances, by not telling him that she's dying too.
- In the Doctor Who episode "A Good Man Goes To War", Lorna Bucket met the Doctor as a child, and has spent her whole life hoping to meet him again. She finally does on the Demon's Run asteroid, but the Doctor hasn't yet visited her and she's been mortally wounded. The Doctor pretends to remember her for her last moments, rather than let her die disappointed that the Doctor in front of her isn't her Doctor.
- Even sadder, it's left deliberately ambiguous whether the Doctor simply hasn't met her yet or whether he has and has simply forgotten her. Given that the rest of the episode is about the Doctor getting too big for his britches and losing sight of the impact he has on the people around him, the latter answer stands out as a very notable probability.
- Spoofed in Red Dwarf X when Rimmer is talking to his dying brother after an entire charade that he was a Captain to show off. Since his brother has just told him he wasn't in fact a Captain in the Space Corps, but a chicken soup machine repair man, same as Rimmer. Rimmer has a chance to redeem himself, but...
"Remember how I said I was a Captain in the space corp. with lots of girlfriends and two Aston Martins?"
"Well... I lied... I've only got one"
His brother dies.
"I feel so much better after that."
- Heroes: When Daphne's gunshot wound turns septic, Matt gives her a dying dream where she recovers, decides to split with Matt and run to Paris, he eventually comes for her with his new power of flight, and the two share a flight over Paris. Slightly subverted in that Daphne figures out that she's dying, but goes through with the dream anyway.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Charlie fakes a cancer diagnosis in order to trick the Gang into fixing him up with the Waitress before he bites it. Slightly subverted in that the Waitress is unmoved, and refuses to have sex with him anyway. (And, of course, the obvious subversion—he's not actually dying.)
- Criminal Minds:
- In an episode, Hotch tells a dying witness who was locked in a burning house that her family are fine, and waiting for her. In reality they died in the fire.
- There's also the episode where the team come across one of a pair of serial killers who is badly wounded. Because the man is already dying, Gideon tries to stop him moving to minimize the pain he's experiencing, and repeatedly tells him "it's okay, it's okay", rather than commenting on the wrongness of his actions. Gideon even calls him "son" a couple of times.
- In ReGenesis, Caroline's nephew Glenn gets one of these as, after being comatose for years and, when the Nor BAC crew finally figure out how to communicate with him in hopes that it will lead to a remedy for his situation, he asks please be allowed to die. Caroline takes him on a mental run through a park, feeding him as much pleasant, invigorating imagery as possible and trying to inspire the euphoria of a real run as the doctors get ready to pull the plug. She breaks down mid-sentence as she hears him flatline.
- In 24, Red Shirt A goes back to save another, wounded Red Shirt against orders during a firefight, and is of course shot. Red Shirt B is pulled back, but dies. Redshirt A is dying from his wounds, too, and asks Jack if Redshirt B survived. Jack looks to Cole, who shakes his head. Jack tells him that Redshirt B is going to be just fine.
- In an episode, a man, dying and hallucinating, thinks Pratt is his estranged son and Pratt, who had never known his father, lets him believe so.
- Sadly averted in an earlier season episode. Dying from a combination of AIDS and a suicide attempt, a hallucinating woman keeps begging her husband to forgive her — she cheated on him, contracted the virus, and passed it on to him and their daughter. However, her angry and unforgiving husband isn't even there, it's one of the doctors she's talking to. He is unable to bring himself to say "I forgive you", whether because he himself is disgusted at her actions or simply feels it's unethical to deceiver her.
- Another episode had Luka pretending to be a priest in order to hear a dying woman's confessions (a real one could not be located) and give her solace before she passed on.
- When Bosco is dying in The Mentalist, he finally tells Lisbon that he loves her:
Bosco: I love you, Teresa.
Lisbon: I love you, too.
Bosco: No, I mean I love you.
Lisbon: I know what you mean, Sam.
- He dies knowing that the woman has always loved loves him as well.
- There's an episode where a very wounded soldier wakes up and mistakes Nurse Kellye for his girlfriend. Kellye plays along and pretends to plan a picnic. Meanwhile, Hawkeye is watching and starts to realize how much Nurse Kellye does for the unit.
- In the episode where a group of school kids write to the 4077th, Margaret gets a letter wondering if she ever becomes friends with the patients. She recalled an incident where she lets a soldier talk to her about his future plans after the war, knowing full well that he is going to die in a matter of hours.
- Subverted and Played for Laughs in How I Met Your Mother. A few years earlier, Barney's mother was very sick and the doctors thought she didn't have long to live. To make her happy, he hired an actress to pretend to be his fiancee and visit her in the hospital. She later recovered, so Barney had to Maintain The Lie by pretending to be married, then hiring a boy actor to play his "son".
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- When Garak's father lies dying, he asks Garak if a variety of enemies were dead. Garak lies and says all of his enemies are dead, to which his father says that's good, since a man shouldn't let his enemies outlive him. This may even be the truth, since in his previous appearance he wiped out everyone but Garak and his housekeeper that even knew who he was.
- In the episode "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River", a Vorta Defector from Decadence sacrifices himself to protect Odo, whom he still considers to be a god. As he lies dying, he asks Odo for his blessing. Odo, who hates the fact that the Vorta worship his people, is reluctant at first but decides to say the words that the man needs to hear in order to die happy.
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Resistance" Captain Janeway is sheltered by a mentally-disturbed man who believes Janeway is his daughter. Both his wife and daughter were killed years before by the dictatorship ruling the planet, after the man fled to save himself during a resistance operation. The inevitable Redemption Equals Death occurs, and Janeway comforts the dying man by claiming that she rescued his wife, and his wife forgives him.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: A dying Preston looks up into Kirk's face and the following exchange takes place:
Preston: Is the word given, Admiral?
Kirk: The word is given. Warp speed.
Preston: Aye... (dies)
- In episode ten of Death Valley, the episode closes with the revelation that Officer Brown has been infected by a zombie and has almost completely transformed. Captain Dashell takes a plastic trophy off one of the desks in the office and gives it to Brown, explaining that it is to commend and recognize his bravery and service with the Undead Task Force, placing it in Brown's hands before shooting him.
- In Chinese Paladin 3, the hero's preincarnation Prince Longyang did this for his mother (whose death, due to plot incidents, has just doomed their kingdom). When she recalls that victory bells sounded when her son was born, he goes outside and rings the bells for her to hear as she dies.
- Subverted on an episode of Three's Company. Years ago, Jack's uncle was dying and had always wanted him to become a doctor. Jack told him he was a doctor so his last days would be happy - only for his uncle to make a miraculous recovery and leading Jack to go to great lengths in that episode (with help from Terri) to pretend he really is a doctor.
- In Choujuu Sentai Liveman, on the final episode, Bias is reduced to an aging old man who gets taken in by Gash, and as their ship blows up, Gash tells him that the sparks going around the ship are actually fireworks to celebrate Bias' reign, as if he actually won, and that the sounds they are hearing are the people hailing Bias. Viva Bias indeed.
- The first season finale of Arrow has Oliver (The Hood) let Tommy go out thinking his father, Malcolm Merlyn (The Dark Archer) is still alive. In reality Oliver had killed him earlier in the episode. This is ultimately subverted because Malcolm somehow survived so Oliver is unknowingly telling the truth.
Tommy: Did you kill my father?
- In the second episode of the first season of Atlantis, Jason and his friends are tasked by a dying elderly man with finding his missing daughter; who turns out to have been inducted into the cult of the Maenads. The gang knocks her out and drags her away, but after the High Priestess is killed, the girl poisons herself rather than return to Atlantis. Her final words are that her father is "dead to her." When everyone gets back to Atlantis, Jason is about to tell the truth but Medusa invokes this trope by telling the old man that his daughter is alive and happy and had eloped with a man she loved.
- The song "At the Bottom of Everything" by Bright Eyes is about an elderly man telling a young woman that they're going to her birthday party, because everyone loves her very, very much. In reality, they're strangers on a plane that's about to crash.
- In the Vocaloid song "Kept Waiting for a Response" by mothy (A non-canon Evillious Chronicles song), an elderly nun's dying wish is to learn whether or not the letter she sent years ago was received and if she's been forgiven for her sins. When the orphans in her care learn that the recipient died a long time ago, they write a response in his stead and present it to the nun on her deathbed. She dies smiling, but it's implied that she knew the letter was a fake.
- It is heavily implied, however, that the nun was the titular "Daughter of Evil" and the message was the one sent in "Regret Message". Seeing as the recipient was executed in front of her eyes and the message was sent out to the sea in a bottle, it is no wonder she knew it was fake.
- Les Misérables:
- Fantine dies peacefully and thinking of her daughter as Monsieur le Maire tells her he'll take care of Cosette for as long as he lives. He carefully neglects to mention that he just exposed himself as the parole-breaking convict Jean Valjean and that the police officer is right outside to arrest him.
- In the number "A Little Fall of Rain", Eponine dies in Marius's arms while he tells her that he loves her, she'll recover, and they'll be happy together for a long time. Audience blubbers.
- In Reefer Madness: The Musical, a dying Mary asks Jimmy if Romeo and Juliet has the happy ending they dreamed it did. Mae and Jack inform Jimmy that it did not. He tells Mary that it did.
- The Shadow Box is a play set in a hospice, where dying patients are being cared for by family members. All throughout the play, the daughter of one dying old woman reads letters from her absent sister, assuring the mother that she is on her way and will be arriving soon. Later in the play, the daughter reveals that the sister died years ago but the mother has rejected the knowledge in her senility. Unfortunately, the mother is clinging to life through sheer stubborn desire to see the absent daughter again, making it harder and harder for the daughter to keep up the charade.
- Matthew Baker in Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway attempts to do this while Franky "Beans" La Roche is dying, telling him the Dutch girl he tried to save escaped, but Franky manages to breathe out calling him a liar, which obviously means he knows she died. Then part of the ceiling collapses and crushes him. Well, Matt, you gave it your best shot.
- In Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd tells a dying Governor-General Dorr that his daughter, Kilia (whom had been replaced by a Desian impostor who mentions that she is dead) is alive, and can choose whether to promise to save his wife, Clara so that his daughter won't be alone; whether Lloyd lives up to this promise is up to to the player, but he can save Clara in an optional side-quest.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Snake, Raidan and Otacon tell Emma that her virus worked fine when really they can't be certain yet. (It does work, actually, but with some... side effects.) Moments later, with her last breath, she asks her step-brother, Otacon, to call her by her real name rather than by her childish nickname because she's in love with him, and wants to be seen "as a woman". He instead asks her what's wrong with the nickname, but she's gone before she can reply.
- In Persona 3, the Protagonist can choose to give this to his friends, after they've all objected - allowing The End of the World as We Know It to be delayed a month and change, and to have his and his friends' memories of the Dark Hour erased, in order to die a carefree and painless death. This is the bad ending to the game, obviously.
- Even the good ending is kind of like this. For the sake of their friendship, Ryuji intends to let the party die fighting; which Akihiko and Ken at least would probably prefer. Of course, he didn't count on the power of the Infinity Arcana.
- Chapter 3 of Final Fantasy Tactics: Folmarv has revealed the truth about his Zodiac Stone, and wreaks havoc within Riovanes Castle. His son, Isilud, lies dying, savaged by his own father. Terrified, and desperate to spread the news about this diabolical power, he's found by Ramza's sister, Alma. She assures him that Ramza has slain the demon, and that everything is all right. Isilud is then able to die at peace, instants before Folmarv arrives to capture Alma.
- Tsukihime uses this in Arc's route, when Arc uses her Marble Phantasm to "defeat" Roa, who regenerates and slices her in half as she walks away. She's blinded from the pain, and Roa's still regenerating... so as she bleeds out, Shiki comforts her and says that she finally did it, she finally killed Roa. Then she dies, and a very angry Shiki gets up, gives a "World of Cardboard" Speech, and promptly utterly wtfpwns Roa.
- At the end of the Rank 2 fight in No More Heroes, Travis impales Bad Girl with his beam katana. Even bleeding profusely she refuses to give up and pins Travis to the ground before beating him furiously with her baseball bat until Travis admits he lost. She promptly stops and manages to gasp "Yes! I won!" just before dying.
- Narcissu. Setsumi's death, and probably the protagonist's death after the game.
- Legend of Legaia subverts this one in a rather brutal fashion. Lady Zora willingly fought the party with the belief that Cort loved her as they came to raid her floating castle. Once she loses, Songi shows up, blows open the door leading to the Mist Generator, and nukes it as well before exposing the true nature of the castle - a gigantic Death Trap for the party. Zora believed that Cort loved her to the end before Songi states otherwise and blows her up, too.
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines: Fun With Pestilence can play out like this, depending on player choice.
- If you take the easy option in Knights of the Old Republic 2 and have Visas sacrifice herself in the duel with Darth Nihilus, the light-side option is to comfort her with the knowledge that her death meant something.
- Jorge in Halo: Reach tosses Noble Six out of a Covenant ship, sacrificing himself to blow it up, thinking he just saved Reach. Not thirty seconds later, an entire Covenant fleet drops out of slipspace to finish the planet off.
- At the end of Planetarian, the Junker (who is the main character) tells the eponymous Ridiculously Human Robot that he will get her to the service center, after an autonomous war machine blast her entire lower half (short story: it's a Crapsack World). No way in hell he can do that.
- Zigzagged in a manner in Batman: Arkham City. When Joker lays dying after inadvertently knocking the cure from his hands and wasting it, Batman lets him know that he would have saved him if he could have, ostensibly to let him know he just screwed himself. Being the Joker, he finds this funny and dies laughing.
- In Litchi's Story in Continuum Shift, Arakune offers to eat her memories about him so she wouldn't continue to expose herself to the Boundary. He believes that there's no way out of the corruption, so the least he can do is allow her to live the remainder of her life in peace. If she accepts, Litchi will live maybe another six months, with degenerating memories, bedridden and if she's unlucky, become another Arakune... but before that, she'll be content. Totally not bittersweet at all. note
- To the Moon is based around this. The Sigmund Corporation alters the memories of near-death patients so that they can achieve their dreams and die happy. In the first episode, the wish is that of a man wants to go to the moon, even if he can't remember why.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Darth Vindican gets mortally wounded. Darth Malgus allows him to gaze upon his homeworld, Korriban, which he had not seen in his entire life, and tells him, "Welcome home!" before decapitating him.
- In Fate/stay night:
- At the end of the "Fate" route, Bedivere reassures Saber that he has seen the same dream twice before, because she said she just had a beautiful dream and wanted to see it again.
- In the "Unlimited Blade Works" scenario, Illya seeks out Berserker because she needs to know they will win their fight against Gilgamesh. Berserker defies the laws of the world and stands there until she dies. The reason she thinks everything will be OK is because her eyes were gouged out, and she dies because Gilgamesh rips out her heart.
- Caster tries to do a Heroic Sacrifice to protect her Master (Kuzuki-sensei) from Gilgamesh's Gate of Babylon. As she fades, he assures her that he'll be okay thanks to her intervention. He dies from his wounds immediately afterwards.
- This Schlock Mercenary strip. Subverted in that they don't all die, leading to much confusion and disappointment.
- The Order of the Stick:
- The ghost of Lord Soon puts the best spin he can on Miko's disastrous final actions. This is a variation if not an outright subversion; his words are compassionate but also bluntly honest.
- Later, Therkla, the half-orc ninja with a massive unrequited crush on Quirky Bard Elan, is fatally poisoned by her employer after switching sides, and dies in Elan's arms. Cue the tears. But this is also a variation/subversion, because Elan can't bring himself to lie and tell her he'll dump Haley for her if she's raised. It's not so much not being able to bring himself as fearing the consequences if she did get raised.
- Buck Godot: The Prime Mover finds out that his security chief has done terrible things (including enslaving an entire species to be his spies) to maintain order on Gallimaufry Station, which he has done very well for thousands of years. Rather than condemn him, the Prime Mover praises the Chief for his exemplary record, declaring that he will serve as a shining example for all who attempt to follow him... and then "fires" him.
: And that's
the story we're going to stick
- In Justice League, Hawkgirl tells Solomon Grundy, who wanted his soul back (long story) and was mortally wounded in a Heroic Sacrifice, that his soul will be waiting for him on the other side, even though she doesn't believe in such things.
- On SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward mistakenly believes SpongeBob is dying, and spends the day playing with and pretending to tolerate him.
- In Dead Space: Aftermath, after the interrogation of Alejandro Borges is complete, he's told that he'll be escorted to guest quarters for the remainder of the trip to The Sprawl, and after that, he'll be free to go home. While he's expressing his relief to the guards escorting him down the corridor, one shoots him in the back of the head. In a fine example of Karmic Death, the interrogators themselves are shot from behind shortly after being congratulated by an Overseer on a job well done. Their last words consist of speculation about how they'll be rewarded. Unfortunately for them, the illusion is shattered at the last moment by the sound of the guards' guns warming up.
- On South Park, in the episode A Million Little Fibers, Oprah's minge convinces her asshole, which just took a bullet from a police sniper, that they've made it to Paris. Just your typical episode of South Park.
- In The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok reassures his brother Noatak that "it will be just like the good old days" before igniting the fuel line of their boat. Judging by the Single Tear Noatak sheds, though, he was well aware his brother was lying.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Summerween", The Summerween Trickster turns out to be a monster born from the resentment of unwanted, uneaten "loser candy". When Soos eats its heart it dies happy, complete with Tears of Joy, because Soos tells the Trickster that he tasted good, something other Trick-or-Treaters never did.
- In Libertys Kids, Sarah's cousin Tom, a British soldier, is dying after the first armed skirmish of the Revolutionary War. Tom dies believing that his death is justified in that this exchange of fire will make people see that war isn't the answer to the conflict between England and the colonies. As he dies, Sarah agrees with him and tells him that the conflict will stop when they see the reality of this short battle, but when she writes to her mother shortly after his death, she tells her that she is now even more sure that full-out war is inevitable.
- It's not uncommon for family or friends to tell someone who is dying something they would want to hear, even if it's not true, or it's about something that might happen but hasn't yet. ESPN recently did an Outside the Lines story on Dylan Rebeor, a high-school football player who discovered he had terminal colon cancer early in 2010. He served as an inspiration to his team, Central High School in Columbia, Tennessee, as they played through the 2010 season and state playoffs. He died the morning of the State Championship; his last words were to ask his mother if the team had won the title. She said they did, even though the game was that night. Fortunately, the team did win the state title.
- When Pan Am Flight 759 went down in Kenner, La., in 1982, 13-year-old Darren Jacobs was at the playground with his first girlfriend, 11-year-old Jennifer Schultz. Darren could see the jet's wing about to clip the swing set Jennifer was playing on, but didn't warn her. "I guess that I didn't yell because she didn't have a chance ... But Jenny, she was laughing, see, and..." The reporter finished the thought for him: "Since she didn't have a chance, why not let her die with a smile on her face?"
- In the age of paternalistic medicine (which ended around the 1970s with the adoption of the concept of "informed consent" as the basis for patient-physician interactions), doctors would quite often not tell the patient that he or she has a fatal disease. The doctor would inform the family members first, assuming that they would know how to break the news better, but quite often the family would not tell the patient either. This was done ostensibly done to not distress the patient; but unfortunately, being stuck in a limbo where everyone is lying to your face and whispering solomnly around your bed only made patients feel more afraid.