Financial planner: It doesn't look like you've been saving anything for the future! Wiggum: Well, you know how it is with cops. I'll be shot three days before retirement. In the business, we call it retirony. Planner: Well, what if you don't get shot? Wiggum: What a terrible thing to say! Oh, look! You made my wife cry!
Subverted in Last Exile: a soldier mentions that he only needs two more battle survival medals to retire, right before a hopeless battle in which it's clear that everyone is going to die. The battle is then cancelled, and the soldier survives. Subverted even more when that same soldier develops a relationship with a former enemy and makes a promise with her that they would both survive; later he appears to die after having saved the day, complete with all the trappings you would normally expect from this sort of death scene...and then, at the end of the last episode, he is shown to still be alive and living with that former enemy.
Death Note, episode 5: FBI agent Ray Penbar is talking to his fiancée about the family they're going to have, right before Light takes control of him and kills him. Though, in this case, the fact that he ignored his former FBI agent fiancee's advice and reminded her she wouldn't need to think after they get married undermines the sympathy. The wife on the other hand is definitely sympathetic (though is still subjected to misogyny).
In the first episode of Soukou No Strain, the Grabera students are preparing to graduate and become glorious Humongous Mecha pilots just like Sara's brother. Guess who swoops in and kills everyone but Sara.
In the second-to-last episode of the first season of Sailor Moon, the girls decide not to say any "just in case" goodbyes before fighting the final battle, instead choosing to think about where their lives will take them afterward. By the end of the episode, all but the title character are dead. On the other hand, they get better.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, the first important character to die is Maes Hughes, who was one of the few characters in the series with a still-living family. A running gag in the series was that Maes Hughes would constantly talk about his daughter, or his wife. This is also Lampshaded in the manga when during a flashback to the Ishvalan war, Maes Hughes gets a letter from his then-girlfriend and immediately worries that other men might be taking advantage of his absence. Mustang is quick to point out that in movies and novels such talks are a surefire way to get the bullet.
In the first episode, as they face the Crimson Knight, Black Knight (), poor, faceless armoured Utu completely out of the blue says he will go home and get married "just after they finish the battle with Crimson Knight, Black Knight." This despite having gone through many battles before this, without saying anything. He then charges straight at the Black/Crimson Knight by himself and gets skewered. Then, to show there is no possibility that he could have survived, there's a Say My Name moment (UTUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!) as well as an on-screen text which says "Utu has died".
And again, later in the episode, after the earlier-defeated Crimson Knight, Black Knight saves the protagonist because he's The Only One Allowed to Defeat You, the Crimson Knight, Black Knight makes the mistake of saying the exact same thing, and suffers the exact same fate via dragonfire. Finally, in the protagonist's final confrontation with the Big Bad, the Big Bad says it too.
It's referenced again in the very last episode of the last season, a sort of lampshading of the previous lampshading. Right before the big final battle, at a point where we could legitimately expect a main character to die in a non-joke scene (this being the final episode, and after some have already died earlier), Utu actually proposes to Fatina.
Notably, she turns him down immediately, which is probably directly responsible for the fact that everyone survived that battle. Smart move.
The second part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a German soldier named Mark show up, and within two pages of his arrival declare that he and his girlfriend are getting married once he gets leave. Five pages later, he's dead.
Noticeable in the anime because you can see Speedwagon cringe at the mention of this.
In an early chapter of 20th Century Boys, a legendary police detective collapses in the street and dies when he is just one week away from retirement (While on his way to his grandson's birthday party, no less). In this case, there is a reason for the timing. He had just passed on a case he had been working on to a trusted colleague. Unfortunately for him, the colleague was actually working for the enemy and decided He Knows Too Much.
Earlier in the series, Hayate Gekkou. While investigating his death, one of the ANBU mentions the fact that he was engaged... to the woman currently staring at his broken sword. Ouch.
The Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro anime has a policeman obsessed with Cop Shows who attempts to invoke this trope on himself through a complicated plot involving killing cops which he frames a criminal for. It doesn't work.
Lampshaded and parodied in Kidou Senshi Gundam San. The original TV series and movie have one of Char's comrades killed off during atmospheric entry. In the parody version, just before they launch, the same soldier shows Char a picture of his sweetheart and tells him they're planning to get married once the war is over. Char attempts to stop him, to no avail. Cut to the unfortunate victim plunging to earth, and Char going "I knew it."
In the original series, there's a slightly retroactive case: Lt. Matilda and Lt. Woody were planning to get married after Operation Odessa. Matilda performs a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent the Black Tri-Stars from destroying Gundam during that operation. The viewer (and White Base crew) only learn about her fiance and engagement several episodes later.
Subverted in Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, when Ooishi, who is putting off his retirement for one last case, only dies in a few arcs. Also subverted with Akasaka, an almost father: Rika tells Akasaka something terrible will happen if he does not go back to his family. Since the series has many innocent-turned-murderers running around, one would expect Akasaka to be the one to die, but instead his wife does, all the way back in the city. His daughter lives. In other arcs the wife and child both die or are both fine)
Tony from Baccano! probably sets a new record for this: he survives all of thirty seconds after the retirement announcement before one of Russo's lackeys kills him and steals his uniform. This winds up actually being relevant to the plot.
The Record of Lodoss War OVA includes a random unnamed soldier of the Holy Kingdom of Valis in the episode "The War of Heroes." At the beginning of the episode Parn notices a pendant on his neck, and the soldier says it was a gift from his son for good luck. At the end of the episode, when the battle is over, amongst the dead the pendant is found on a soldier's corpse, presumably the Red Shirt from the beginning.
In Black Cat, Sven's old partner Lloyd is revealed to have died shortly after buying his daughter a present.
Mobile Suit Victory Gundam: In the midst of a protracted Zanscare assault on Earth, Zanscare's Lt. Duker Iq proposes to his subordinate, Renda, after learning of her own plans to live peacefully on Earth after the war. True to the form of this trope, both Iq's carrier flagship and Renda's mobile suit are destroyed in the battle that takes place immediately afterwards.
Gundam 0083 combines Retirony with His Name Is... to make it blindingly obvious that the character in question is gonna bite it. South Burning opens an episode with his annual physical, where the doctor comments that he should consider retiring soon. Later in the episode Burning muses on getting in touch with his estranged wife after the Zeon remnants are defeated. That's when the His Name Is... element kicks in...
The Galaxy Railways II, episode 10. A plague is accidentally released on a planet. Two people there are going to get married. You can guess what happens.
The third episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica has Mami being happy about having finally made true friends and no longer has to suffer about being a Magical Girl on her own any more, making her talk about having a party with her new friends after they kill the Monster of the Week. Predictably, the monster kills her instead.
In Muhyo And Roji, two Arcanum guards, Furuya and Iwamoto are about to get married and leave the Arcanum, which Iwamoto is quite eager to do. Furuya has already been killed and impersonated by Face-Ripper Sophie, who then kills Iwamoto.
Aberline in Black Butler and his fiance were expecting a baby. He dies when he jumps in front of Ciel when Lau lunges at him with his sword. Ciel later sends gifts for the baby to Aberline's fiance.
In Bomberman Jetters, Shirobon's older brother Mighty was becoming increasingly frustrated with his obsession in mastering the Bomberman fighting style as he served the Jetters team. He eventually reached his breaking point when his best friend and partner Birdy was wounded in an earlier mission and Shiro was abducted by Mujoe, and before that had learned of how much Shiro missed him during his time away. The stress of it all eventually drove him to the point that he admitted that was wasn't cut out for this heroic business and pledged to his brother before departing again that the next mission would be his final. Naturally, He is killed in a trap just as he was about to finish the mission by MechaDoc and his newly made android MA-0/Zero.
One episode of Madlax featured an assassin going on one last job before retiring - to kill Carrossea Doon. He fails and is killed by Limelda.
Played to the hilt in episode 4 of Katanagatari, where the show goes far, far out of its way to build up viewer sympathy with a ninja mook goes on for several minutes about his plans to go home and get married after this one last mission, only to have one of the protagonists brutally kill him.
Happens several times in Monster. In an early episode, Tenma meets a disgruntled journalist whom he eventually becomes friends with. The poor guy tells Tenma about his family that left him, and eventually promises to quit smoking on the doctor's advice. He never gets the chance.
Subverted in Samurai Seven by Shichiroji. He has a fiance, and fully intends to marry her when he returns from his One Last Job. He is one of the three Samurai who survives the series.
Battlefields: Happy Valley features an experienced Australian Air Force crew running missions over Germany during WW 2, as they're three missions away from finishing their tour, they're joined by an inexperienced pilot. He proves to be an able pilot, but on his third mission, and everyone else's last, he is killed, while everyone else survives and is discharged.
In an Ultimate Marvel example, a middle-aged ex-assassin is seen playing with his grandchildren before being called out of retirement to kill Nick Fury. It's a trap and he gets killed.
Subverted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, in which Commissioner Jim Gordon, mere days away from forced retirement, is accosted by gang members on his way home from work. Via narration, he says that he's thinking of his wife, and... Cut to a newscast, as the newscaster says that Commissioner Gordon was shot dead... before correcting herself and saying that he shot the gang members dead.
Sin City. Detective John Hartigan was on his last hour of his last day before retirement, as soon as he rescued skinny little Nancy Callahan. Too bad he lives in Sin City. He ended up being shot in the back by his partner, framed for raping the child he saved from an actual child rapist, then thrown into jail where he was resuscitated so that he could be beaten up some more, and then forced to confess to the accusations.
The "Secret Invasion" arc of Black Panther opens with the Skrull villain narrating that after completing this mission to conquer Wakanda, he will have enough money to retire. He dies.
There's a scene in Scion where a Raven Red Shirt goes off to fight the Herons after a reference to his wife and daughter has been established. He dies (pretty quickly, too) and the "camera" even lingers on his corpse for awhile as the battle rages on.
In the Punisher graphic novel Born, Stevie is down to "thirty-nine days and a wake-up" before he can leave Vietnam behind for good. You can guess what happens to him by the story's end.
In the last issue of X-Statix, the team decides to go on one final mission before going their separate ways. None of them survive the mission. Even Dead Girl appears to die for good!
Parodied in Nextwave, where we open up one issue meeting Officer Mangel at the start of his last week on the job. Turns out he takes cuts from drug dealers in the neighbourhood, robs a guy-who's been nearly blinded by other muggers-because they took his wallet but missed his billfoldnote we're not sure if he killed him or simply beat him senseless and takes a cut from the local flophouse. By the time something evil burrows into his chest, the reader is happy to see him get his comeuppance. He survives, whereupon his "friends" come to take him off Nextwave's hands, after Aaron and Tabitha have kicked him around a bit.
In Mickey Mouse and Friends #303, some of the cop cars get broken after a run in with Mickey's new spy-car that had only a day until retirement.
Subverted in Memphis Belle. The entire crew is on their last mission. They make it back in one piece.
Finding instances of this trope in war films is the subject of the game "Spot the Stiff", explained in thisPunt and Dennis sketch.
Billy the Kid in The Expendables 2 planned to retire from the team and reunite with his girl in Paris after the upcoming mission that the movie revolves around. Ross, in a somewhat Genre Savvy moment, tries to insist that take his earnings so far and head off to Paris right away, but Billy insists on tagging along anyhow. The Kid doesn't make it.
Parodied in Last Action Hero, a cop mortally wounded in an explosion (which leaves the Made of IronAction Hero untouched) gasps out with his last breath that he was "two days before retirement". The Genre Savvy main character (the boy, that is) sees this coming from a mile away, and calls it as the smoke fades.
In the movie Sin City, John Hartigan is framed for the abduction of the girl he actually saved on the last day before his (forced) retirement, for which he spends eight years in prison. And then he dies.
Detective Jerry Black is all set to retire, before he makes... The Pledge. He doesn't die, technically speaking, but it is still a tragedy.
In We Were Soldiers, a soldier gleefully announces that his wife is due to give birth that day. Shortly thereafter, he is mortally wounded by napalm.
When the older flight attendant in Snakes on a Plane says that she decided to make one last flight before retirement, you know she's a goner. It's averted with the other female flight attendant, though. It's her last flight before leaving to study law. However, the combined force of the two having their "one last flight" at the same time is probably what really unleashed thousands of snakes on the plane.
In the film Executive Decision, one of the flight attendants can't stop gushing about her recent engagement/wedding, while the rest of the crew congratulates her. Three guesses who dies first when the hijackers take over the plane.
Against all odds, the exception comes through for SFC. Troy Barlow in the film Three Kings. During his little adventure in post-Gulf War Iraq, Barlow is shot (while wearing a kevlar vest), exposed to tear gas, captured by Iraqis, brutally tortured, shot again (sans the vest), and still survives to go home to his wife and daughter (who are brought up frequently). As for his Southern-accented friend who, self-admittedly, has no family to go home to? Not so fortunate.
Taken to ridiculous heights to lampoon the idea in Hot Shots!. One character, appropriately named "Dead Meat" Thompson receives a visit from his wife as he's preparing to fly a training mission, and what follows is an enormous list of things he has to live for, including his beautiful wife, that he's carrying his (unsigned) life insurance papers with him, and that he's figured out the real culprits in the Kennedy assassination but hasn't told anyone and has the evidence on him.
In Falling Down, Martin Prendergast, the cop who is investigating Bill Foster's violent breakdown is retiring that very day (and the other detectives joke that he's bound to killed today) but it's subverted; he survives, and his encounter with Foster makes him decide not to retire after all.
In the Live Action Spawn movie, Al Simmons goes on one last mission before retiring with his wife to start a family. Take a wild guess what happens to him.
In the 1986 movie Aliens, after the initial battle with the titular creatures goes to hell in a handbasket and it becomes clear to the survivors that they are trapped without assistance, PFC Hudson (played by Bill Paxton) rants "Aww man, I was getting short, too, four more weeks and out, now I'm gonna buy it on this rock!"note Given that the marines appear to spend a great deal of time in suspended animation, one wonders how long he'd actually served. Hudson eventually does buy it on that rock, but at least he overcomes his Heroic BSOD before it. "YOU WANT SOME OF THIS?! FUCK YOU!"
In Letters From Iwo Jima, the one named Japanese soldier who survives is the one who was forced to leave his pregnant wife behind when he was called up and has never seen his daughter.
Subverted in Se7en, in which one of a pair of police partners is set to retire within the next few weeks and is on his last case, but the other guy...well, doesn't die.
In Fort Apache (John Ford's 1948 film, loosely based on Custer's Last Stand), Captain Sam Collingwood is trying to get moved from Fort Apache to an instructing position at West Point. When his wife finally gets the letter saying that his transfer went through, he is riding off with the regiment to confront the Apaches. Someone tells her to go, to run and tell him that he should come back, but she says "Sam isn't a coward", and then twists the knife by handing the letter back to the message-boy, saying "Keep it. For the captain's return."
Subverted in Lethal Weapon 3. Just before going into a building with a bomb, Sgt. Murtaugh says that he only has 8 days to retirement. He survives the subsequent bomb explosion. Later, his Genre Savvy wife insists that he wear a bulletproof vest at all times for the last six days before he retires. He ends up surviving the film.
Probably because he ends up changing his mind about retirement.
In Bruges: Harry leaves his loving family near Christmas to hunt down Ray; Ray has struck up a beautiful romance with a beautiful Belgian drug dealer. Their numbers are up, safe to say.
Drugstore Cowboy. Bob is killed just as he was getting over his drug addiction and going clean.
The end of Carlito's Way. Carlito is on his way to escaping his life of crime for good when he's killed over an earlier slight. Shamelessly ripped off by Layer Cake...
At the end of Layer Cake, the character decides to leave the drug business with a nice nest egg only to get shot by his new girlfriend's jealous ex. Whether or not he survives in the film is open to interpretation.
The Sting. Con artist Luther Coleman and his apprentice Johnny Hooker pull off a big score. Later we see Luther's wife and children, and he tells Hooker that he's going to use his share of the money to retire. That very night he's thrown out of a window to his death by thugs — because of the scam that provided the money to retire on.
In The Hunt for Red October, the instant the Russian sub officer says he plans to live in Montana, marry an American woman, and raise rabbits once they defect, it's only a question of how he's going to die.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka: Two extras (a man and a woman) are talking, with the man holding the woman's hands. A minor villain opens fire with a machine gun, killing the man. Later the woman pulls a box (with a ring inside) out of his pocket and puts the ring on her finger, saying "I waited 12 years for this!". He had been proposing marriage to her: the ring was an engagement ring.
Chad (as Darth Vader): Alright, we Needa new captain. Heh heh. Are any of you three days from retirement?
To Live And Die In LA: Richard Chance's partner, Jimmy Hart, is about to retire. But before he goes, he decides to try and bust Rick Masters and his henchman, Jack, at their counterfeiter warehouse. Bad move. He is shot and thrown into a dumpster for his troubles.
Face Off has an example of retirony where the character retiring doesn't actually die but is about to be put in a bad situation. FBI Agent Sean Archer is about to perform one final task to put an end to the reign of a terrorist (Castor Troy) he had been pursuing for years for killing his son. Once this case was closed he would request a desk job and be away from the action. It doesn't quite work out as planned.
The 2009 movie Moon has an original and heart-wrenching subversion to it. Sam Bell has two more weeks of his three-year contract on the Moon until he gets to go home. Then there's a rover crash and it turns out he's actually a clone with implanted memories, and several of his predecessors did "retire" by being cremated. He doesn't get to go home, but another clone of him does.
No Country for Old Men averts this trope with Sheriff Bell, who is close to retirement throughout the movie. In the end, he retires, and is one of only two characters to survive.
Eight Below actually had this happen with a dog. Old Jack was introduced in the beginning of the movie as having "just turned ten and getting ready for retirement." Naturally he is one of the two dogs that does not survive.
The Cannonball Run plays this in retrospect. J.J. is telling Pamela about all the things his father was going to do when he retired, then adds "He died two days before he was supposed to retire."
The guardian of the scroll in the opening of Bullet Proof Monk hands over the responsibility, declares that after sixty years he is finally going to take a vacation, and is promptly gunned down by Nazis.
German parody movie Neues vom WiXXer had a police officer coming into a room where a gunfight was taking place, announcing that his doctor told him he didn't have cancer after all. Guess what happens to him...
Turned on its head in Short Time where the main character is deliberately trying to get himself killed while a few days from retirement: mixed up physical results have caused him to believe he is terminally ill and he's trying to die in the line of duty so that his family can get the police insurance money.
In Brooklyn's Finest, Officer Eddie Dugan has only two weeks till retirement. Subverted, as he survives, just barely.
In the theatrical version. When the film originally premiered at Sundance, Eddie killed himself in the last scene of the film: he shot himself through the mouth while on a boat fishing, but the ending was already depressing enough with out it. His death scene is a deleted scene on the DVD.
Spoofed like so much else in Black Dynamite, where upon entering Fiendish Dr. Wu's headquarters one character starts talking, for no apparent reason, about how this is his last day in the posse and how he's going to start a family. He's then immediately impaled by a spear. The trope is then lampshaded when Black Dynamite 'flubs' his line by saying, "Who saw that comi- Who saw where that came from?"
Red Tails features Lightning, the only main character to die in the film who is shot down just days before he's going to marry his fiancee.
In Exiled, Sergeant Shan keeps on ignoring mobster activity while he can, and when he finds himself getting the tiniest chance of coming close to getting even tangentially involved in mobster activity, phones up their boss and pleads that he only has a few days left before he retired. Subverted; his final shift is up by the time the credits roll.
The Sender sees the main character's father get killed right before the end of his tour of duty. He got better
Paris in Pitch Black, to the extent that he was "supposed to die in France". He "never even saw France".
The Cop in Faster was only a few weeks away from retirement with full benefits before the main character killed him. Though that's because it turns out that he was actually the Big Bad who started everything.
Subverted in Cellular. The cop Mooney was on his last day on job, but he managed to survive through the end of the film.
One of the guards at the checkpoint outside the villa raided by The Dirty Dozen comments that he's going on leave in another week or so. He and his compatriot are the first casualties.
Big Tits Zombie features a stripper days away from retiring, only to turn into a zombie.
At the end of The Guardian, Senior Chief Randall has finally accepted a desk job, but then he gets called out for one more mission...
In The Line Of Fire manages to play this multiple ways, when Secret Service agent Al mentions his wife and kid in his first scene (played straight), expresses doubt about his ability to be a good agent (implying that he's a rookie, which would invert the trope), then later in the film declares his intent to resign because he can't handle the stress (back to played straight), which his partner Frank talks him out of—shortly before Al is killed by the very assassin they've been pursuing throughout the film. This is averted with Frank, who doesn't retire until the end of the film.
An odd inversion of sorts in the "compilation" movie Fugitive Alien (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000). Captain Joe was on his last trip on the shuttle Bacchus 3 when the Star Wolf Raiders attacked Japan. His wife and daughter ended up dead instead.
Throughout Oblivion 2013 , both Jack and Victoria mention that they had two weeks remaining on their mission before being sent to the Tet, where they would go with the rest of the human survivors to their new home in the moon of Titan. It's all a lie anyway. It's unclear what the Tet would actually do to them when that time comes, butconsideringthemoviedoesn'tholds backin showingitsmonstrosity...
Lampshaded in Tanya Huff's Valor's Choice. One of the squad members is looking lovingly at a picture of his daughter, and another squad member snatches it out of his hands, rips it up and starts ranting about how anyone who starts making references to family or retirement is the next person to die. The first squad member, confused, starts to talk about his upcoming retirement and is summarily gagged.
Aral Vorkosigan mentioned at one point that he was going to duck this trope by never retiring. And when last seen was still in active service, as planetary viceroy of Sergyar.
He died of a stroke, still unretired.
Sergeant Jack Vincennes from L.A. Confidential manages to more or less fix the mess he's turned his life into, patch up his differences with his wife and is looking forward to retiring in a couple of weeks... so, naturally, he catches a bullet in the face.
Matt Howard, the first person to die in the Honor Harrington series: the only thing we're told about him is his name and that he was due to retire from his service in two years.
Played with in Feet of Clay: Sergeant Colon makes a lot of noise about how he's six weeks away from retirement and wants to go live in the country and "buy a farm". This being Discworld, he doesn't actually "buy the farm", and after some far too up-close-and-personal experiences with animals, decides he wants nothing to do with rural life after all.
Played straight in Jingo, in the scene where an Morporkian patrol surprises Vimes and Ahmed. Ahmed kills a pair of the soldiers before Vimes can clear up the misunderstanding. While disposing of the corpses, their sergeant mentions that one of them had just been showing the squad a picture of the girl he left behind the previous night.
In Angels in Iron, it happens before a mission that a Mauve Shirt knows ahead of time is going to be fatal. It does, indeed, kill him.
In the novelisation of the Doctor Who story "Spearhead From Space", a policeman who is shot dead by Autons is going to retire the following day.
Lampshaded in Descent: Stealing Thunder, when protagonist Ben St. John is shown worrying about this trope:
St. John: "Megan, the irony is, I'm a good pilot. I think I can survive another 26 days... But on the twenty-fifth day, the day I'm coming home for good, I'll catch a missile because short-timers are the most vulnerable... I got two words: screw that!"
Star Trek: New Frontier, "Missing In Action": A Romulan on a stealth ship desperately wants to get home to his pregnant wife. He dies by being blown out the airlock by Soleta, along with every other Romulan on the ship except the Subcommander, who saw his commander's treachery coming.note Not as evil as it sounds. They were going to betray her, and the airlock thing was her last-ditch just-in-case plan. That's just life in the Romulan Star Empire.
The novelization of Jason X mentions that Private Johnson, the soldier guarding the captive Jason at the beginning, only has a few weeks of service left.
In the Alex Rider book Scorpia, an elderly assassin in the SCORPIA organization decides to retire from the organization to spend more time with his grandchildren, but not before the Big Bad Julia Rothman gives him a suitcase containing something as a parting gift. When he opens it on the gondola, it turns out to be...full of poisonous scorpions!
Admiral Helaw in Death Star. To be fair, his impending retirement wasn't given nearly as much attention as his caution, since he was telling his protege, Admiral Motti, that even the best-laid plans can go awry and Motti mustn't think that even the Death Star couldn't have a fatal flaw.
Teased in Sharpe's Waterloo, in which d'Alembord postpones his retirement — and marriage — for the titular battle, and becomes convinced that he's therefore going to die. He loses a leg, but survives.
The set-up is inverted in Literature/Catch22. Nately has actually completed all the missions he needs to get sent home to the U.S., but volunteers to fly more because he needs to stay near the Italian girl he has fallen in love with. He is doomed from the moment he agrees to go on even one more mission.
The whole Catch-22 is one big example itself. Most pilots are being just one mission away from being sent home, then during mission almost all of them survive, but upon returning to base they find out that the number of missions they need to complete had gone upagain. Repeat until almost no one is left alive.
In Redshirts, one of the ensigns who dies was going to be transferred off the Intrepid when Lieutenant Kerensky forced him into going on one more away mission. He was about to get married as well.
Col. Henry Blake, from MASH, was sent home from the Korean War by plane. The rest of the cast later finds out that his plane went down and that there were no survivors. To make the actors' reactions more believable, they had rehearsed the final scene with Radar reading a letter from Col. Blake, but at the last minute the director swapped it with the message about Col. Blake's death.
Unfortunately, technical difficulties forced them to reshoot the climactic scene.
Played with when one character was only grievously wounded when he found out he was 'getting short'. In a much later episode, we find out that said character later recovered in hospital, re-enlisted, got promoted, and returned to combat...only to be Killed Off for Real this time.
An episode of CSI: Miami, Horatio is talking to Speedle about his bike, saying Speedle might need something with a door one day. Speedle says he has plenty of time for that. Two minutes later, Speedle is dead.
Another episode inverts the trope by having a new medical examiner show up, cheerful about starting her first day at work. Seconds later she is shot to death.
Done to Gallant in Iraq in ER. The instant he starts to say he has a wife at home he can't wait to get back to, the truck he's in blows up.
To Pratt as well. After he died, it was revealed that he was planning to propose to his girlfriend (played straight) and was about to be named ER Chief (inverted).
In Psych, a bounty hunter mentions that the Case of the Week is his last before retirement. Shawn instinctively ducks, then brings up this trope.
Played completely straight at the very end of season 6 with Henry. Well... we don't actually know if he died, but the trope is in play.
In an invoking of this trope, a character is brought out of retirement in The Grid and killed shortly after.
Played straight in the first season of The West Wing: President Bartlet asks his friend the happily married army doctor about his wife and kids... he's dead by the end of the episode.
A variation occurs at the end of season 5: recurring character Percy Fitzwallace was called out of retirement to help on a diplomatic mission to Israel and was killed during a car bombing.
Inverted with Lister from Red Dwarf. He tells Rimmer about his plan to save up all of his money, take only a few more trips on the ship, and then retire to Fiji with his cat. He is then forced to go into stasis, which means that he survives while everyone else on the ship dies, leaving him stranded in a ship that's been adrift for 3 million years.
In Farscape, two bounty hunters gets a quick mention at the start of the episode that this is going to be their last mission. And do they survive it...?
It happens again to Chiana's friend in "Home on the Remains"—she strikes it rich, and gets mauled to death before she can collect her riches and retire.
Inverted in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Commander Adama is a few days from retirement in the miniseries, and is one of the few humans who doesn't die. He doesn't retire, either.
In the second episode of Maou, a friend of the protagonist's details his plans to quit being a loan shark and open up a restaurant. Before the end of the episode, he's died of an asthma attack while being threatened by an angry client who thinks he kidnapped her daughter because she couldn't pay back her loan.
Xander: I’ve been lucky too many times. My number’s coming up. And now we’re short! One more rotation and I’m shipping state-side, you know what I mean?
Subverted by the Brigadier in the 1989 Doctor Who serial Battlefield. While the early scenes showing the Brig enjoying a cosy retirement with his wife before answering the call of duty once more are designed to set up a tragic end, he miraculously survives the climatic face off with the Destroyer.
Inverted in Terror of the Vervoids - instead of being killed on his last voyage, Rudge threatens people with a gun and allies with the Vervoids.
One Mad TV sketch features a cop one day from retirement and his partner encountering a pair of armed robbers. They exchange shots, and every bullet fired hits the near-retiree. Even the ones fired after the fleeing robbers ricochet back just to hit the retiring cop.
Waiter: Here, have some wine. This is my last table before I go home and see the wife and [mimics being shot] kkkkghh!
Played with at Kate's death at the end of NCIS season two.
Tony: You did good.
Gibbs: For once, DiNozzo's right
Kate:[stands up] Wow, I thought I'd die before I ever heard*BANG*
In the pilot episode of Wiseguy, Vinnie's mentor Stan Dermott announces that he will be retiring to Florida after finishing one last investigation. Dave Steelgrave, the target of that investigation, murders Stan.
Parodied in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. A very young looking cop is killed in the line of duty and one of the guys quips "And he had only fifty years before he retired."
Again in Future War, the heroes kill one dinosaur and the film immediately cuts to another one roaring, prompting Mike to have the dinosaur lament that his dead buddy was just two days from retirement.
In the "Stay Focused or Die" episode of Deadliest Catch, the Katmai sinks, and the ten survivors are forced into two life rafts (holding four and six). In the one with the six, one of the crew members stripped to the waist in order to try to close the raft's flap and save everyone's lives. The captain gets choked up as he talks about how the man turned to him, grinned, and said they were gonna see their kids again minutes before being swept overboard.
Subverted in Rescue Me. The Chief is rotated out of the firehouse for a desk job. Instead of living and enjoying his income 'til a peaceful end...he has his one "perfect day" and then shoots himself
Played straight and then subverted in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. episode "Bye Bly", where Lord Bowler talks of retiring to become a wine grower in Napa. Needless to say he's shot and killed by Big Bad Bly. So naturally Brisco has to use the Orb to go back in time (again!) to save him.
Discussed by Punt And Dennis, in their "Spot the Stiff" sketch.
In the Japanese drama Shokojo Sera, based on A Little Princess, Seira pleads with her father to not go anywhere dangerous before he left. He promised, but eventually he would come to break that promise as he goes into the mines. That day, there was an accident that cost him his life.
Dwight's father, a detective with the MPD, died just days before hanging it up in Memphis Beat. Dwight was never really the same after that incident, and it's implied this is part of the reason he joined the police force in the first place. Dwight recently discovered evidence that his dad was dirty, and has since developed even more confused feelings about him and the incident.
The first episode of Detroit 187 has both a veteran cop about to retire and fulfill his dream of living in Italy as well as a rookie detective whose wife is about to give birth. Neither can shut up about it and it annoys their partners throughout the episode. The veteran is never in any danger while the rookie is shot in the final scene right before his phone rings with the news that his wife has gone into labour.
Since the show is currently running and He keeps mentioning retirement is only months away...
In Star Trek: Voyager, Joe Carey (the engineer who was shuffled aside in favor of B'Elanna Torres) would disappear for episodes - and seasons - at a time, only making appearances in flashback or alternate-reality episodes. In the late-seventh season episode "Friendship One", he shows up again, lamenting that he's one nacelle away from completing a model of Voyager, as well as discussing his family. He is then killed on an away mission by the alien-of-the-week. Interestingly, Carey is the final on-screen casualty from Voyager in the series - the crew makes it back home just a couple episodes later.
Inverted in The Bill when Probationary Constable Billy Rowan was stabbed to death in his first episode.
Parodied on 30 Rock's 100th episode, when a gas repairman repeatedly tells people it's his last day while showing people the picture of the girl he's going to marry. At the end of the episode, he remarks that he made it through his last day, and then realizes he's been shot.
Castle does this with Captain Montgomery. Having announced his intention to retire at the end of the 3rd season's next to last episode (an announcement that's waved off by Beckett), he turns out to be a part of the conspiracy that led to Beckett's mother's murder in the 3rd season's last episode. He was only a rookie at the time, and has spent the rest of his career atoning for it, and he's only lying to Beckett to protect his family. He dies killing Hal Lockwood, the man who would kill his family and Beckett, but it's after he was fatally shot by Lockwood.
Law & Order: Claire Kincaid debates leaving the DA's office (and possibly the legal profession altogether) shortly before she's killed in a car accident.
Subverted on Law & Order: UK (while simultaneously playing Birth/Death Juxtaposition straight). DS Ronnie Brooks gushes to his partner about the birth of his grandson and the possibility of reconciling with his estranged daughter. Sure enough, minutes later. . .his partner is shot and killed.
Played very, very straight on TJ Hooker whenever a cop is killed. But in a show like this, it's to be expected.
On Person of Interest this forms the backstory of one of the "persons of interest". A soldier in Afghanistan finds out that he is going to be a father and shortly afterward switches seats with his best buddy while on a mission. A bomb goes off and kills the soldier which causes the buddy to feel enormous guilt. When the buddy gets home he tries to help the dead soldier's wife and gets involved with some very shady characters.
Played straight on Home and Away, when Charlie was shot by Jake on her last day as a cop shortly after making plans to move to Sydney with her daughter and their respective boyfriends. She died in hospital, after her life support was switched off.
Though what with her previous three and a half years on the show, this doesn't quite tick all the boxes.
An early episode of Star Trek opens with Kirk presiding over the wedding of two ensigns. Just before he can pronounce them man and wife, a red alert sounds, forcing them to abort the ceremony. The rest of the episode deals with the Enterprise battling a Romulan ship. At the end of the episode, Kirk asks if any of the crew were killed. It turns out that everyone on the ship survived — except the guy who was about to get married.
Parodied in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger. The heroes were in fear that if the final enemy is defeated the show would end. Thus, the final enemy started spouting lines usually said before someone bites the dust, including 'visiting his fiancee when it's all over' - this very trope.
Inverted in the Season 2 finale of Sons of Anarchy, where Half-Sack, a SAMCRO Prospect, is unexpectedly killed just as he's about to be admitted to the club as a full-fledged member.
"I Was Only Nineteen" by Redgum, a song about The Vietnam War, contains the line:
And Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon God help me... he was going home in June.*
Diminished somewhat when you remember the Apollo moon landing took place on July 20, 1969. That means that either Frankie was still nearly a year away from going home when he bought it, or the writer went for the June/Moon rhyme and figured nobody would notice the discrepancy in the dates.
The pilot in Kim Wilde's song "Cambodia" goes missing in action just when his wife is expecting him to return home.
The protagonist in Cold Chisel's "When The War Is Over" fears becoming this. He also mentions that if he makes it back alive, he won't be the same man.
The cowboy in Michael Martin Murphey's "When the Work's All Done This Fall" hasn't seen his home "since very long ago" and is planning to return as soon as this cattle-herding season ends.
Charlie died at daybreak; he died from a fall. He'll not see his mother when the work's all done this fall.
"El Bandito" in "Cross the Brazos at Waco" is planning on giving up the outlaw life to be with his sweetheart. He's caught and shot dead by the posse one stanza after discarding "the guns she hated."
Dino Attack RPG has what might be not only a subversion but an inversion with Montoya. He was a former small-time crook involved with a big heist on a multi-million dollar corporation and the one member of the crew who had been planning to go clean when he was done. The heist was a disaster as a result of interference from one Silencia Venemosa, and Montoya was one of only two men to escape from the massacre with their lives. Fast forward a few years later to the actual Dino Attack, and not only has Montoya successfully gone clean, but his only surviving partner and Silencia herself are killed in the final battle, making him the last surviving participant of the heist.
Dungeons & DragonsRavenloft campaign expansion Masque of the Red Death. In the adventure "Red Tide" a sailor writes in his journal that he's about to propose marriage to his girlfriend as soon as he gets home. He's murdered by a vampire a short time later.
Notably subverted in The History Boys: Hector is being forced to retire early because the headmaster has discovered that he had been groping his students. At the end of the show, he is allowed to come back next year, only to be killed on his way home when his motorbike crashes.
In The Rose Tattoo, when Assunta tells Serafina that her husband's job smuggling dope under bananas in his 10-ton truck could lead him to get killed, Serafina protests that tonight is his last run for the Brothers Romano and that he will can start making his own living tomorrow. Serafina waits in vain for the return of the truck and its driver, which meet a fiery end together before next morning.
Slight subversion in Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword. We don't find out until after Leila, Matthew's love interest, is killed that he had intended to quit and marry her after this last mission.
The Code Geass game for Nintendo DS parodies this. In one stage, the player sees two Mooks talking, one saying that when everything is done, he plans on returning to his hometown and getting married. Immediately afterwards, Zero enters and kills him.
After a dozen missions or so in Modern Warfare, as the player character and his squad are escaping from the events of the previous mission, Staff Sergeant Griggs and Captain Price begin talking about how to serve a beer (cold or warm?). Griggs mentions that he'll have to "school y'all when we get back to the States," and Gaz mentions stopping in London first, where "I'm buying". Thanks, thanks a lot.
The American characters in Call of Duty: World At War in the mission "Breaking Point": in the opening narration sequence, Sgt. Roebuck explains that "once we take Shuri Castle, we go home. All of us." By the end of the mission, either he or Polonsky is dead. The player hears the earlier statement repeated in his head as Polonsky/Roebuck hands him the fallen Marine's dog tags, as if to further drive the point home.
Dragon Age: Origins features as a fellow Grey Warden recruit, Ser Jory, who is awfully keen to tell you of his lovely wife back home (pregnant with their first child), and how much he can't wait to get back to his family when the war is over. Guess what happens?
A subversion. Jory's worried about the odds of dying in the Joining ceremony. Daveth is the guy who dies. Jory freaks out, and pulls a weapon on the more experienced Duncan. Hilarity Ensues. Jory doesn't die because he's the guy with the pregnant wife - he dies because he's about to attack his own team as he's the guy with the pregnant wife. Afraid to be a Red Shirt because of the low life span? No worries! Attack one of theGoldShirts. That's a ''much'' better idea.
The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion has a humorous example of this trope seen from the other side in one of the Dark Brotherhood quests. The player character is tasked with the assassination of a notorious rival of the Dark Brotherhood, a certain captain of the guard who is retiring.
Slightly subverted, as in this case, that "certain captain of the guards" already have retired, and is now on some kind of holiday. But the Dark Brotherhood will "not let him have his victory like this", so you go and catch up with him even after he is retired.
In Fracture the hero Jet drops down into a spacious tunnel and stops to receive a message while two redshirts drop down and proceed ahead of him. Before they get taken out in a blast from an unseen source this exchange occurs.
In Neverwinter Nights 2, there is Amie, who, if spoken to before the end of the Harvest Festival, mentions her plans for the future, which include, but are not limited to, "Adventuring, finding some artifacts with you and Bevil, then eventually settling down and retiring to Candlekeep where she'll tell stories to children into old age." Sure enough, the very night after the Harvest Festival ended, she was blasted by a bunch of fireballs.
Mass Effect 2 seems to lampshade this with Captain Bailey of C-Sec, who makes note of his fondness for Earth and his plans to retire to "the foothills" before making it clear that he doesn't plan on retiring any time soon, hinting at this trope.
In the first game, a scientist in Peak 15 - a research facility beset by acid-spitting bug-like aliens - bemoans the fact that her contract was up just when the bugs attacked.
And then there's the crewman in the Crew Quarters of the ship talking to a friend for the first few missions about his newborn daughter and his wife living on a Terminus colony called New Canton before it's hit by the Collectors. However, it turns out the crewman was able to arrange his family to be moved to the safety of Earth, so it seems to be subverted. And then the entire crew's abducted, and it's up to the player whether or not they'll let this man see his family...
In Mass Effect 3, Mordin muses about retiring, relaxing on a beach, and maybe collecting seashells. When Shepard replies that he'd go crazy from boredom within five minutes, he quips back that maybe he'll run tests on the seashells. Needless to say, unless you followed a particular chain of events in the two previous games, he's not going to get a chance to run those tests on the seashells - more likely, he either dies curing the krogan genophage, or trying to after Shepard shoots him in the back to stop him.
In Episode 4 of Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People, it's frequently mentioned that Coach Z's character Renaldo has two weeks until retirement. There are a number of close calls, and far more lampshaded references, but what eventually gets Renaldo is being left behind on a space station that's about to crash into the sun. (Or rather, the fact that Strong Bad deleted the scene where he would have been rescued).
In Wing Commander II Elizabeth "Shadow" Norwood is close to retirement when the Kilrathi kill her. Indeed, as soon as she mentions that she's retiring next month a Genre Savvy player knows exactly what's coming.
If Paladin dies in the first game, Shotglass laments that he was a month away from retirement. Canonically averted; he takes up a non-combat position in Special Ops in WCII and survives the war with the Kilrathi.
In the first game's Secret Missions 2 expansion, Bossman starts to repeatedly talk about wanting to see his family again. He dies soon after.
Some of the evil mooks in the 2005 Punisher game claim they were about to retire/are married/have kids/whatever. It's possible to leave them alive (but not as much fun).
Ace Combat Zero's PJ announces that he's going to propose to his girlfriend after the last mission - he even bought flowers. Guess who happens to brake right into the path of the final boss's laser as he tried to move back into combat flight formation.
Ace Combat 5 has two occurrences: The first is right after your squad rolls over the "impregnable" enemy fortress and would have been a mere two missions away from finishing the game if it wasn't for a third-enemy spy organization convincing your (now-usurped) government that you're traitors.
Ace Combat 6 has it up the wazoo with Shamrock. During the Liberation of Gracemeria (the endgame), he talks about how he's going to introduce you to his family, going so far as reminding you to bring flowers for his daughter. When it's revealed that his family was killed during the operation, in the final final mission, he goes all suicidal and flies right into a Death-Star trench run style alley to get important mission data. He gets hit several times and isn't seen to bail out. Subverted in that he doesn't die, but is now stuck in a wheelchair.
Lampshaded in Saints Row 2, as one of the lines a cop will say in a standoff with the player is something along the lines of having one week left before retirement.
Used in one case of Ace Attorney Investigations. Detective Badd mentions that this is his last day before retirement, even officially announcing his retirement at midnight, right before he is arrested for being part of the Yatagarasu. So that actually makes this an aversion.
In Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door, at the Glitz Pit, King K says that after one more match he is going to retire. Later you find him and Bandy Andy under a block, because they know too much about Grubba's energy-sucking machine that uses the Crystal Star's power. They ultimately survive and return to the Glitz Pit.
God of War III's Hercules tells Kratos that he considers killing him to be his thirteenth and final labor. Killing Kratos, however, is very hazardous to your health, and... well...
Goat-butler: That's right, I'd actually planned on washing my hands of this business when this job was over, and returning to my hometown. Sorry, my little goat sister, Onii-chan...I was only ever a nuisance. And I ...a-actually had a childhood friend, and was going to marry her when I got home!
Lampshaded by Grand Theft Auto IV in the mission "To Live and Die in Alderney". Your partner for the mission reveals that he's just married the love of his life, and has also been busy caring for his aging mother and putting his sister through college. Can be averted in that he doesn't have to die during the mission if you watch out for him.
One tip mission in City of Heroes references this trope. Alongside the regular enemies is a "Retiring Detective" who is ten levels lower than the rest of the enemies, guaranteeing he'll get defeated by accident.
Dead Space: In the first game you're on the USG Ishimura, a ship that was the first of its kind and is scheduled for decommissioning the following year. All the actual crew except one survivor, who dies in the second game's first big DLC die horrible, sometimes self-inflicted deaths. The ship is left abandoned before finally being brought to another place, the Sprawl, the main location of Dead Space 2
Sephiroth in Crisis Core essentially was considering abandoning Shinra and SOLDIER after their mission in Nibelheim depending on the results of the mission, namely because of growing distrust of the organization. He abandons it, all right, and wipes out Nibelheim as well.
In Dungeons of Dredmor, one of the randomly generated Enemy Chatter lines is "one more adventurer and i can retire"note Lower-casing is intentional — all the "taunts" are like that. Unfortunately for it (or, perhaps, fortunately — this IS a roguelike), that adventurer would be you.
In Corpse Party, we have Mayu Suzumoto, who has just finished her last day at her current school before she transfers. Out of all the deaths in this game, hers is probably the worst.
Parodied towards the beginning of The Reconstruction—the character saying this is onboard a ship that's about to be rammed, and is narrowly missed by the ramming ship's frontal spike. He decides to stay away from the action.
Variation in The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: Kodlak Whitemane wants to cure himself of his lycanthropy before he dies so he can go to Sovngarde. He sends the player on a quest to help prepare the ritual. While (s)he's away, the Silver Hand assaults Jorrvaskr, and, naturally, Kodlak is the only casualty. (Luckily, it turns out that the ritual can still be done and Kodlak can be cured posthumously and be able to go to Sovngarde anyway.)
Played with and lampshaded in Dungeons & Dragons Online: The quest Assault on Summerfield gives you an optional sidequest to protect an NPC, Captain Markus, during waves of attack. If he survives, and you talk to him after completing the rest of the mission, he mentions that he's retiring in two days and didn't really expect to survive the battle.
If you lose to Nasty Ned in The Town With No Name, the player character laments that he had one more page before he finished his novel and falls over dead.
XGen Studio's Web GameMotherload. When you first pass a depth of 2,000 feet you get a transmission from another miner saying that next week he's planning to retire to the moons of Jupiter with his wife and three daughters. Guess what happens to him shortly thereafter.
In Girl Genius, a Genre Savvy overseer stops a prisoner just before she can declare that she's nearly earned her freedom. "Fool! Never total your points out loud!" This one is justified by the fact that they are all prisoners in a giant, sentient, psychopathic castle which thinks it has a sense of humor; it is entirely possible that announcing how close you are to freedom there could directly get you killed, and the other prisoners aren't much better; there's no need give them a new reason to kill you.
Carson von Mekkhan inverts the trope: he retired three days before his place of work was attacked and blown up. His replacement - who was, tragically, his son - died instead.
Parodied in the "Henchman Retirement" arc of Evil Inc.. The company has to find a way to off the soon-to-be-retired oldest living henchman, Abe Vitale, otherwise they'll go bankrupt from his $28,000,000.00-a-year pension. "No one ever expected a henchman to retire" and the investment funds were misused due to a misprint and lost.
Played straight in another strip where a police chief announces he's getting too old for thi-
Also played with in the Adventure Game, where one of the ilustrations of Haley's Sneak Attack is a goblin who says it's his last day before retirement, not realizing Haley's hiding behind the door, weapon ready.
One B-movie law got broken, however - when elderly characters are killed by villains, it should be shortly before retirement, not immediately afterward. It’s more emotional that way. They say.
Occurs in This strip of Nuzlocke. Loudred notes that while he may currently have the lowest stats on the team, he'll evolve in one level and be back on top again. Naturally, he was the one who died. It was even lampshaded in the comments, with a direct reference to this trope.
And the review of Hook just after Peter Pan slices the world's slowest moving coconut thrown towards him.
NC: That coconut had just two days left until retirement. You bastard!
Dragon Ball Z Abridged has Zarbon wanting to call his girlfriend to see where they were going to spend their one-year anniversary together. Vegeta blows his load all over his insides.
In the Yu Gi Oh The Abridged Series spin-off, Marik Plays: Bloodlines, there's a bit where Marik is lamenting the fact that he killed a hooker and mentions that "She only had a few days left until hooker retirement".
In the internet novel Spliced, Alex and his siblings make their escape while there's a retirement party going on downstairs. They blow up the lab.
The first example is the Trope Naming exchange in the page quote. Police chief Clancy Wiggum doesn't have life insurance because he and his wife expect this to happen to him. The couple gets upset at a financial planner raising the scenario that Clancy lives to retirement.
Parodied in a McBain movie, where McBain's sidekick Scoie talks of his retirement and shows a picture of his boat (christened, "Live-4-Ever") seconds before he interrupts an assassination attempt on McBain.
Wiggum's police car gets crushed by a tree at a protest rally, one day before the car would be retired.
A police dog one day from retirement takes a sniff of Homer's clothing and bolts in fear.
In The Movie, this happens with a bomb-defusing robot.
Homer accidentally smashes a giant novelty hat containing a hidden camera; the hat was one day from retirement. A technical subversion as the camera still functions enough to implicate Apu for selling expired foods despite being thrown to the floor.
The prisoners that Marge frees when she runs her car into the prison walls are one day away from total rehabilitation.
In a Cutaway Gag in The Cleveland Show, a job-hunting Cleveland becomes a cop two days away from retirement. Subverted in that he refuses to draw fire, resulting in his younger partner getting killed instead.
In American Dad during a mini-series of Roger's Golden Turd, a police lieutenant who's a week away from retirement finds and keeps the gold turd from the suicide victim for himself. He takes it home to show his wife that they can pay for a great retirement. He faces guilt and attempts to return it resulting in an argument between the two. His wife accepts his decision. She makes tea and secretly adds rat poison to his cup.
Also parodied in episode Con Heir, with an aged museum security guard who, after telling one of his loved ones he refuses to retire because he considers his job his life, right before getting beaten up by Stan. Said guard actually lives and reconsiders.
Spoofed in Ultimate Spider-Man: a Doombot sliced up by White Tiger sputters out "Three days til retirement" before falling apart.
Capt. Edward Smith of the RMS Titanic had announced his intention to retire after the ship had completed its maiden voyage. (So, a ship widely promoted as "unsinkable" and a captain on his last voyage. Honestly, they just didn't stand a chance.)
A common misconception is that he was going to be retired when they arrived in New York. It would have taken effect once the Titanic had returned to England.
There is some debate amongst historians as to whether Smith would have actually retired when Titanic returned to England. He made some comments that he looked forward to commanding the Britannic when she was completed.
Making it into the history books because you were the lastman shot before the war ended is kind of embarrassing.
A police dog was killed chasing a criminal a week before he was going to retire. This seems to be a not uncommon trope for police dogs.
The US Military will practice troop rotation for overseas deployments. The period in which a soldier is on the tail end of a deployment is often considered the most dangerous, as the soldier is likely to be thinking about going home to safety and getting out of the war, possibly letting down his or her guard.
The Fukushima I - 1 nuclear reactor was badly damaged in the days following the 2011 Sendai earthquake. The earthquake occurred just over two weeks before the reactor was scheduled to be shut down.
Shigeru Yokosawa, a sixty-year-old hospital admin in Iwate Prefecture's coastal Rikuzen-Takata, would have retired at the end of March 2011, had he not given his life by, in the face of an approaching ten-meter tsunami, rushing to the first floor of the building to retrieve the hospital's satellite phone. The phone he saved became his colleagues' only lifeline to the outside world right after the disaster, and was later decorated with a legend reading "Yokosawa's phone. Our chief is helping us from heaven."
The captain of Continental Airlines Flight 603, which overran the runway and was destroyed by fire after several tires blew during the takeoff roll, was reportedly about to retire. He survived, but two of his passengers didn't.
Charles Schulz died just hours before the last Peanuts comic strip was published.
There's at least one case of someone cleaning out his office on one of the Towers the morning of 9/11 (although in this case, it was due to switching to a better job rather than retiring).
Speaking of 9/11, police officer John Perry was filing his retirement papers that very morning at 1 Police Plaza (located a few blocks from the World Trade Center), when he learned of the attack. He rushed down to the Trade Center. . .and disappeared, killed when the South Tower collapsed.
Dermot Morgan died of a heart attack just 24 hours after finishing filming the last series of Father Ted.
Andy Rooney passed away on November 4th, 2011, one month after his final regular segment on 60 Minutes. "Y'know, I always wondered... why do some celebrities die shortly after their retirement? I remember, when I was a kid, WE never did stuff like that."
In Canadian Politics, Jack Layton had been campaigning as federal NDP leader for the job of Prime Minister several elections in a row, and almost each time was dismissed in popular opinion as the candidate who didn't have a chance. In the 2011 election, he managed to make it at least to official opposition leader status... note (the job of Prime Minister goes to the leader of the party with the highest number of seats, while the that of official opposition leader goes to the leader of the party with the 2nd-highest number of seats) but died just a couple months afterwards.
The police chief of Greenland, New Hampshire was killed in a drug bust gone bad on April 12th, 2012. He was two weeks from retirement.
Captain Dezső Szentgyörgyi, highest-scoring World War II ace of the Hungarian air force: survived 220 sorties and shot down 29 enemy planes without ever crashing or being shot down, then went on to log more than 12,000 hours of civilian flight. Died three weeks from retirement when his Ilyushin IL-18 crashed due to a freak storm.
Jim Croce, with a newborn baby on the way, and little money coming in due to poor management, meant to get off the road and settle down with his family. As a concert in Sherman, Texas was canceled, he opted to take one last "makeup gig" at the venue before the end of the tour. His plane crashed into a pecan tree, the only one seen for miles in an otherwise clear area, during a dense fog one hour after he played a show in Louisiana, instantly killing Croce, his backing guitarist and four others.
Soap Opera actor John Ingle, who played Edward Quartermaine on General Hospital, died shortly after the last scenes that he had filmed were aired. He'd decided to retire only a few months earlier.
Thomas Klestil, who had served almost 12 years as President of Austria, died from multiple organ failure just 2 days before he was set to retire.
Mary Sherlach, a school psychologist who tried to stop Adam Lanza during the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. This article about her even name-checks this trope.
Chris Benoit was on the eve of his final title run before being phased out of regular competition into being a trainer and road agent- semi-retirement for pro wrestlers. Then... you know.
In a comedic sense of this trope, Item 107 in the 2008 University Of Chicago read: "A cop with three days left until retirement. That same cop, three days later, alive and well."
Roger Ebert got hit with this. His final blog post has him announcing his retirement from the Chicago Sun-Times and the many film plans he has in store. He had also changed his mind about denying himself cancer treatment. Two days later, he died.
In August 2012, country music legend George Jones announced plans to retire after going on one final tour in 2013. On April 26, 2013, he died after having been hospitalized for over a week for a fever and irregular blood pressure.