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Unintentional Final Message

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Fiction has many ways for dead characters to send final messages to their loved ones. They can draft out heartfelt goodbyes, leave clues written in blood, and even occasionally come back as ghosts.

However, sometimes a character ends up leaving a final message that they never intended to be final. Simply put, this is when a living character receives a message from a dead character who didn't know they were about to die. This applies both to messages composed immediately before a sudden death, and to messages that were composed significantly ahead of time, but never sent.

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Due to the nature of their creation, these messages are usually relatively mundane. They might be love confessions or apologies - or even just random musings. They can also take non-written forms - voicemails, videos, birthday presents that were bought but never delivered, or heirlooms that the deceased intended to pass down in person.

Compared to messages composed by characters who are aware of their incoming demise, unintentional final messages are sentimental because they offer a snapshot into the deceased's everyday life. They show that the deceased was thinking about the recipient - not just while dying, but also while living.

While exceptions exist, receiving an unintentional final message is almost always a tearful but positive experience that motivates the reader to push forward and keep doing their best - occasionally even helping to snap them out of whatever depressive funk they might have been in over the death of their loved one.

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See Apocalyptic Log, Famous Last Words, and That Was the Last Entry for other situations where a character might leave a final message without realizing they are about to die. Compare with Killed Mid-Sentence. Contrast with Happier Home Movie for when a character's reliance on this type of message becomes dysfunctional.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The ARIA anime adaptation features a twist— Akari is given a message from a mysterious girl to deliver to a long abandoned address away from Neo Venezia. She later learns that both the recipient and the letter writer died before the letter could be sent; the recipient was a man who died mining for water with the rest of his coworkers, while the writer died waiting for him on Earth. Akari ends up delivering the message to the man's grave though, with a little help.
  • Beastars: The story opens with Legosi the wolf trying to deliver the love confession that his deceased friend wrote but was too shy to send. The recipient is grateful for the letter, and Legosi's efforts end up helping to change her biases against carnivores.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs: Shortly after Atsushi resolves his first major incident as a member of the Armed Detective Agency, he learns that the abusive director of his former orphanage was killed in a car accident. The revelation that the man died while intending to congratulate Atsushi for his success - he was found holding a newspaper clipping about the incident, and had made a reservation for a bouquet at a nearby flower shop - leaves Atsushi with genuinely conflicted feelings about the death of the father figure who he also deeply hated.

     Fan Works 
  • For her girlfriend's 16th birthday, Penny from RWBY: Scars made Ruby a video message, in case Penny was forced to move back home. Penny was killed before her girlfriend's birthday.
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    Films — Animated 
  • Ride Your Wave: Hinako receives two of these from her deceased boyfriend, Minato.
    • When she finally manages to unlock his phone, she finds the text message he was in the middle of composing when he died - he'd just completed the complicated surfing trick he was practicing, and was looking forward to seeing her "ride her own wave" (a metaphor he often used to refer to her "finding her own purpose in life"). Seeing this inspires Hinako pull herself out of her depression and decide to start training as a lifeguard.
    • At the end of the movie, Hinako happens to be near a popular romantic landmark that allows customers to prerecord messages and have them read over loudspeaker. While she is standing outside, the loudspeaker begins to play a message for her from Minato, causing her to break down into tears. It turns out that Minato recorded it almost a year ago, planning to take her to that location as a date.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In White Frog, Chaz Young records a video for his younger brother Nick in which he comes out as gay. He gets hit by a car before he can send it, so Nick only sees it when he figures out Chaz's email password.

    Light Novels 
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: The night before she was killed in her previous life, Katarina had sent a text message to her best friend Atsuko complaining about the difficulty she was having while playing Fortune Lover. Atsuko wouldn't come across the text for several days (she forgot to bring her phone to school the day of the accident and spent the next several days too depressed to do much of anything). Seeing it helped break her out of her funk and resolve to live her life to the fullest in the hope that they could be reunited in another life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Chicago Fire, the squad responds to an accident between a street racer and a postal vehicle. Afterwards, Mouch checks his gear to discover a letter from the postal vehicle got stuck to his boot and sets out to deliver it. After the post office declines to help him, Ritter finds a way to determine the address. Mouch delivers it and discovers it was sent by a soldier to his wife shortly before he was killed in action. (Thus making the post office's ambivalence worse.)
  • One Foot in the Grave: One episode begins with Margaret phoning her mother to discuss coming to visit, and getting a recorded answerphone message addressed directly to her. Later she learns that her mother had died some time previously — her body wasn't found for several days — which not only makes the message the last thing Margaret ever heard from her mother, it also gives her words an eerie new significance.
    Hello? Margaret? This is your mum speaking. I'm sorry that I'm not here now, but that's because I'm somewhere else. I say, I'm somewhere else! But I expect you'll both be up here soon, won't you, the pair of you? So I'll see you then.
  • In episode 2 of On Becoming a God in Central Florida, Krystal finds the voicemail message her husband sent to her shortly before he died, apologizing for quitting his job but excitedly telling her how great things will be from now on when he'll be able to devote himself to FAM full-time. Though she'd kept herself together up until this point, hearing him speak so happily - and knowing that FAM was the reason why he died - causes her to burst into tears.
  • Stranger Things: In the final episode of Season 3, as she is preparing to leave Hawkins with the the Byers family, El receives the ultimately unused script Hopper wrote in preparation for his talk with her about her romantic relationship with Mike. It turns out to be a surprisingly heartfelt and loving letter about how change is difficult but necessary. Reading the letter helps the recipient come to terms with the writer's death and the massive changes that are about to take place.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, this happens to Marshall's father. After anxiously waiting to listen to a recently discovered voicemail from his father after he had died, Marshall listens to it, but it turns out it was just a pocket dial. It finally gets him to crack and let out his grief and anger over the loss and the cruel disappointment he felt due to the message's accidental nature. He then hears his dad's voice, who had finally noticed he'd been leaving this really long empty message. He lets out a good-natured laugh at how silly it was and says goodbye after mentioning he enjoyed their recent visit and how much love and pride he has in his son.

    Webcomics 

    Real Life 

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