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"'I love you.'" I didn't say it. I wanted to. We wanted to. It's wrong that these moments pass you by, with no warning. There should be a feeling at the time... some kind of sign. Something that stops you... that makes you realize you'll never get the chance again."—Wedge Antilles, Star Wars Tales
Alice has been Killed Off for Real or spirited away. Normally, this would be cause enough for Bob to stress, but the angst level is upped when he remembers that he forgot to give Alice that one last "Goodbye" or "I love you" just before she disappeared for good.
This guilt can be understandable if the hero and the victim had a strained relationship and he never came around to telling him how he really felt about them. More often than not, however, they had a healthy, long-lasting relationship, and the hero's grief over that one phrase he forgot to say on that one day comes off as just a stubborn refusal to quit blaming himself and move on past the guilt phase. Alternatively, Bob and Alice parted on bad terms the last time they saw each other, and Bob wanted to apologize, but now knows he will never get the chance.
In other words, when the hero says "I never got to say goodbye," it's usually set up as an excuse for him to continue brooding even when it's clear that it's just one small thing in context of the happy times they shared together.
In shows with a more paranormal bent, this is often the precursor to the departured person returning briefly as a ghost or apparition, to give the angstee chance to say goodbye and gain closure. The slightly darker version is I Wished You Were Dead.
This has absolutely nothing to do with Rickrolling, incidentally.
- In Bleach, Orihime is regretful that the last time she spoke to her brother Sora before he died, they fought, and she let him go off to work without saying goodbye. In fact, when she finally gets a chance to see Sora's spirit one last time, at the proper moment of goodbye she tells him "Have a nice day," like she always did except for that day. Cue the Tear Jerker.
- At some point, Yoruichi Shihouin ran away from Soul Society after her best friend, Mad Scientist Kisuke Urahara, was exiled. That did NOT suit Yoruichi's Lancer and pupil, Soi Fon, who grew embittered and cold after her idol left. When they finally met again and Yoruichi defeated Soi Fon, the normally stoic Soi Fon broke down in tears, hysterically begging her mentor to explain why she abandoned her without asking her to come along or even saying goodbye.
- In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Rain had to immediately leave her university when her dad called her back to Neo-Japan due to the incident involving Domon's family. She was getting ready for a meeting with a classmate of hers, Saette, who had something important to tell her. (He had feelings for her but the full nature of their relationship is never stated.) Regardless, he mistook this as a sign of rejection. She never returned due to getting caught up with Domon and his situation and when they met each other again, Saette was the Gundam Fighter for Neo Turkey. It Got Worse.
- Subverted in the first Black Jack OAV, where Crossword, a mortally ill man, just before going down to his laboratory for an experiment during the disease attack he knows to be final, remembers that he forgot to say "Good morning" to his wife. He then notably dismisses this as unimportant, as "Upsetting myself would only dull your scalpel". He just says "Good morning, Sayuri" out loud instead of coming back up to talk to her.
- Narrowly averted with Yoshiko Fujisawa and Hikaru Matsuyama in Captain Tsubasa. She didn't want to either distract him from the Furano v/s Nankatsu match and cry in front of him, so she left to the airport without a word when the match was barely over... but Matsuyama learnt about it and raced against the clock to catch her before her flight to the USA took off. He succeeded, so cue the mix of Tear Jerker and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- A non-romantic example is played straight in the first part, with Roberto and a 12-year-old Tsubasa. Roberto left without saying a word to not separate Tsubasa from his friends and family and to not stunt his growth as a player. Cue to a Tear Jerker as Tsubasa has an Heroic BSOD.
- Also played straight in the manga, with Hyuga recalling how he was not being able to say goodbye to his dad, since Hyuga Sr. died in a road accident in his way home, when Hyuga himself was 10. The kicker? He recalls it when his mom is seriously ill and in the verge of death.
- Clannad milks it for all it's worth and then some with Kotomi Ichinose and her dead parents.
- In Gankutsuou, Franz not only didn't say goodbye to his father who had to leave on business during his birthday, he also told his father that he hopes he never comes back. Oops when his father dies in a car accident...
- In Full Metal Panic during TSR, this is pretty much the thing that Gauron takes drastic measures and an incredible amount of planning to prevent from happening to himself with Sousuke. It wouldn't be too far off to assume that the only thing that probably was sustaining him and keeping him alive was his desire to see Sousuke for one last time, and he even goes so far as to order the complete destruction of a city just so he could lure Sousuke and have some last words with him. Sousuke, on the other hand, could have done without seeing him again...
- Kamina and Yoko in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Kamina died in battle with an unfulfilled promise to Yoko. They did get to meet again though, in an Lotus Eater Machine. By the word of the creators, their meeting was arranged "to reunite two people in the place that has separated them".
- In Fruits Basket, Tohru explains to Shigure that while her mother Kyoko was alive, she would always tell her "Goodbye, be safe!" But the one morning when Tohru wasn't awake at the time her mother left, Kyoko died.
Tohru: I... I had a test. I studied almost the whole night. And when it was time for Mom to go to work, I didn't wake up. I couldn't tell her "Bye! Be safe!" And she...never came home.
- This happens at the end of Sasurai no Taiyou: the Idol Singer Nozomi's father, Shinsuke, passes away from his long-time illness when she's performing on TV. Nozomi feels so horrifyingly guilty over it that she seriously considers retiring.
- There's a comic, not actually part of the X Wing Series but still focusing on Wedge Antilles, where he thinks back to the girlfriend he had before he joined the Rebellion. She was killed while he was out. He did say goodbye, so he doesn't have to regret that, but instead he wishes that he'd told her he loved her.
- In Peanuts, Schroeder says this verbatim about Lucy when Lucy and Linus (temporarily) move away: when she had tried to tell him that her family was moving, he had assumed it was hypothetical, more of her usual attempts to pester him into saying he likes her. Although Schroeder is genuinely upset, Charlie Brown criticizes him for whining since he never seemed to like her anyway.
- Subverted in the Mad Magazine parody of E.R., in which a boy cries after hearing that his father died of a heart attack because he never said he loved him, but then finds out that the man who died was not his father.
- In one strip of The Boondocks, Huey tells Caesar that a friend from back home died, and he never got to say goodbye, shedding a tear as he mentions this trope.
- The Nineteen Eighty Three Doomsday Stories for Axis Powers Hetalia has this happening to Austria, who's initially found still waiting for Hungary, hoping that she made it out of the nuclear war alive. By that point, however, she's been dead for over 20 years. It's eventually revealed that he never really had a chance to even say goodbye before the bombs fell.
- The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds: Megan never got to say goodbye to her friends before the Rainbow Bridge collapsed. 20 years later, when a new portal is opened, she finds that time in the two worlds fell out of sync when the bridge was lost. For the world where Equestria lies, it has been 1500 years.
- In the Katawa Shoujo fanfic Reconciliation, which takes place after Hanako's bad ending Hanako regrets her actions, only to find out that Hisao has died of a heart attack. The trope name is used more literally when Lilly talks about how Hisao died before she could reach the hospital.
- One of the recurring phrases in the film Left Luggage is "Never leave without saying 'I love you'". This phrase was even used on the Spanish title.
- Lampshaded in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "Five minutes would have been enough." The subversion comes when Indy comes climbing up the other side of the cliff from where his father, Marcus, and Sallah are standing, looking like death warmed over. When Henry Sr. finally notices him, those "five minutes" go flying out the window and he insists on chasing after the Grail again.
- He does grab Indy into a fierce hug - probably the first ever shared by those two - and practically sobs, "I thought I'd lost you, boy..." I think that was actually enough for Indy at that moment.
- In Donnie Darko. Donnie and his mother, Rose, get into an argument at the beginning of the movie. That night, the airplane turbine crashes into Donnie's room, but Donnie avoids it because he's sleepwalking at the time, and the events of the movie play out. The night before she goes out of town, Rose sees one of Donnie's disturbing drawings in his room, but embraces her son instead of freaking out. When time is rewound to shortly before the turbine (which was from the plane she was on) crashes into Donnie's room, he chooses to stay in his room, the crash killing him in the process. At the end of the movie, Rose laments that she ended things with her son on a sour note, the last words that he ever said to her was calling her a "bitch".
- Iron Man: "I never got to say goodbye to my father." Incidentally, Tony really wasn't angsting over that, just moving into how he wished his dad was still alive, so he would have advice on the ethics of his business.
- Sarah Jane in Imitation Of Life to her mother, Annie. In her attempt to pass for white, she shunned her mother. When her mother died, Sarah Jane in her grief, disrupted her funeral procession screaming that she "killed her mother." She hadn't spoken to her mother since the day she told her to leave her alone.
- In White Gold Wielder, Linden Avery bemoans the fact she never got to say goodbye to Tom or her father after Tom's Heroic Sacrifice. Tom does return briefly as a ghost.
- EVERY SINGLE BOOK of the Sword of Truth series (except for the first one) includes an example of this.
- Tahiri in the latter half of the New Jedi Order series regrets holding off on a last kiss for Anakin, telling him he could have it after they won. Anakin, of course, doesn't make it back. Subverted in an internal monologue (dialogue?) sequence, when an implanted personality tells her her guilt is actually because she's moved on with her life. In the Legacy of the Force novels, she and Jacen "flow-walk" back to the time of the mission and Tahiri literally physically forces her past self and Anakin together. She has to leave before she can see what, if anything, happened, and since this Verse doesn't usually have time travel nobody's quite sure what did.
- Maximum Ride has this from Jeb Batchelder to his son Ari when Ari dies at seven. Jeb is about two minutes too late to apologize to his son for all the bad things that have happened to him. Cue Jeb cradling his son in his arms and repeating "I'm so sorry" until Max, as usual, interrupts...
- The book No Time for Goodbye features this (obviously.) Cynthia, the narrator's wife, never got to say goodbye to her family when they disappeared without a trace.
- In the World of Warcraft novel The Shattering Prelude to Cataclysm, Thrall and Cairne Bloodhoof part ways for the last time after an argument over the decision to make Garrosh Warchief. At Cairne's funeral, Thrall regrets having parted with him like this.
- Played straight in The Tomorrow Series, when Ellie finds Corrie's grave and realizes that she never got to say goodbye.
- Severus Snape to Lily Evans in Harry Potter. He broke down when he found out what'd happened.
- And it's even worse in the film because of the added scene to his memories that shows him cradling Lily's dead body whilst crying in anguish.
- Harry never got the chance to say goodbye to Sirius. It got worse when he realised he could have talked to Sirius the whole time and prevented his death.
- Subverted in Goblet of Fire - when Mrs. Weasley reads about the Dark Mark being cast at the Quidditch World Cup, she goes into hysterics, not just out of fear for her family, but because the last thing she had said to Fred and George before they left was that they hadn't gotten enough OWLs.
- In Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom novel Magic to the Bone, Allie sees her father for the first time in years and tells him she hates him just before his death. Well, she does hate him, for reason, but it still unnerves her.
- Classic example from Babylon 5: John Sheridan has a monologue where he laments the fact that he was rushed the day of the last phone call with his wife Anna, and forgot to say "I love you" before she headed out on the expedition that claimed her life. Of course, the real reason he couldn't let go is because he blamed himself for her joining the expedition in the first place.
- And Ivanova has similar regrets regarding Marcus. Marcus however did get to say "I love you" to a dying Ivanova, leading to the touching yet funny line, "I thought: God really does have an English accent, just like in those old movies."
- It both appears and is averted Doctor Who. Rose and the Doctor are separated, each stuck in a different parallel world. The Doctor manages to use the power of a supernova to get a goodbye message to Rose. She tells him that she loves him... he starts to respond, only able to say "Rose Tyler - " before the connection is severed forever Or so they think... and the scene cuts to a weeping Doctor. Also, Sarah Jane Smith calls him on never properly saying goodbye to her face, something the Doctor was notorious for doing in regards to his companions, but when she leaves in "School Reunion", she makes him say goodbye so that she can have closure.
- This also arguably applied to Donna at the end of season 4. Since all her memories of her time with the Doctor were wiped, when he turns and says a final goodbye to her, she says a very perfunctory 'Yeah, see ya' to the man she thinks she has just met.
- Averted in the case of River Song - just before her Heroic Sacrifice, she recalls the last time she met the Doctor, and realises he was saying goodbye to her because knew she was going to her death, even if he couldn't tell her directly.
- River: The last time I saw you, the real you, the future you, I mean, you turned up on my doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium to see the singing towers. Oh, what a night that was! The towers sang, and you cried. You wouldn't tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time.
- Lampshaded in Dead Like Me: The main (female) character George is reluctant to start her new job, and complains that the clothes her mother has picked out for her look like funeral clothes. Her mother responds with "There's going to be a funeral if you don't get your ass out of bed!" The audience suddenly hears a voiceover from George: "Those are the last words my mother will ever say to me. Boy is she gonna be sorry." George is later killed by a space toilet seat re-entering Earth's orbit that very same day.
- While she was shot and dying by the unsub of that episode and hallucinating that her dead father was visiting her, Elle in Criminal Minds revealed that the last words she said to her father was "I hate you!"
- Done again later on in the series. Spencer said these exact words when he and the rest of the team discovered that Emily Prentiss had died after she was stabbed in the torso. It turns out that she faked her death and left the country.
- In Torchwood: Children of Earth, Ianto dies in Jack's arms, having already told him that he loves him. Jack has plenty of time to say it back, but he's in such denial about it that he can't.
- Jack (and the fans) finally get closure over Ianto's death in the Torchwood the Lost Files radio play "The House of the Dead", when Jack gets to tell Ghost!Ianto that he loves him.
- When Trapper was discharged from the army in MASH, Hawkeye becomes quite upset because he was on leave at the time and never got to say goodbye. This comes up again in the finale, when Hawkeye becomes angry at BJ's refusal to actually say goodbye, saying he's still hurt that Trapper didn't.
- In That 70s Show, Red's mother dies as Eric is driving her home. Because she was being a heartless crow (like usual), no one had anything good to say about her, but were still heartbroken when she was gone.
Red: I didn't say "I love you," or even "See you later." No, the last thing I said to her was "Show me tail lights."
Eric: ...Dad, the last thing I said to Grandma was "It wouldn't kill you to be nice once in a while." But I guess it did, because then she died.
- In a short-lived sitcom about friends from preschool, one girl lost her parents at a young age. In a conscious effort to avert this trope, she insists on ending every phone call with "I love you," so that if one of the participants dies, those will be the last words they said to each other. Her husband finds this creepy.
- In Sherlock: After John describes the events of The Reichenbach Fall to his therapist, she asks him what it was that he wish he'd said to Sherlock before he'd died. John admits there were things he'd left unsaid but he can't bring himself to say the words.
- One of the songs on Songs to Wear Pants To, Never, says this verbatim. "I never got to say goodbye, baby, goodbye/ I've never moved on..."
- Youth of the Nation by P.O.D. has this from the dead person's point of view.
Last day of the rest of my life
Wish I would have known 'cause I didn't kiss my momma goodbye
Never told her that I loved her, how much I cared
Or thank my pops for all the talks and the wisdom he shared
She looked like she was sleepin', and my family had been weepin',
by the time that I got to her side, and I knew that she'd been taken,
My heart it was achin', I never got to say goodbye
- Adventures in Odyssey invokes this when Eugene and Bernard come back from a six-episode road trip just in time to learn that, just after they left, Whit packed his bags for the Middle East. Eugene is heartbroken to realize he never got to say goodbye... and then learns that Whit's plane hasn't taken off yet. He actually makes it onto the tarmac and gets Whit's attention before security catches him.
- This is essentially what torments Angron in the short story After Desh'ea. That he couldn't keep his oath to his fellow gladiators, doesn't know how they died and can't even commemorate them properly. Of course, being Angron, he kills seven of his captains before Kharn manages to convince him he is not alone.
- In the play Liliom and its musical adaptation Carousel, Julie Cannot Spit It Out that she loves Liliom/Billy, though she does become pregnant with his child. She finally gathers enough courage to say "I love you" to his corpse.
- The beginning of Baldur's Gate.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, it's rather ironic that both Eva and Ocelot never managed to see Big Boss one last time before dying, despite their whole purpose and plan being to revive him.
- Eva does hallucinate that Snake is Big Boss after the motorbike crashes. That sort of counts.
- In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon:Red/Blue Rescue Team, the player character is taken away before many of the Pokemon can give him/her a proper thank you or goodbye (the partner and Shiftry, for example).
- Fate/stay night example, Shirou for Saber in UBW true end because both were avoiding the conversation. The Good End he also gets a bit depressed about it but then he happens to find Saber, who is apparently baffled by how surprised he is to see her.
- Back in 'Fate', Saber doesn't let Shirou have a chance to say goodbye, instead revealing that she did indeed love him in return and not letting him have the chance to reply before she vanished to the past and died. Shirou comments that that was "Just like her."
- Discussed by Garlot and Siskier in one route of Blaze Union when they're trying to find Jenon, who pulled a You Shall Not Pass resulting in him being swept away in a river, and Siskier is breaking down because the last words she said to Jenon were an insult. It Got Worse after this--a lot worse--but at least in the end they're able to say goodbye to him properly.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, Diego Armando is in a coma when Mia Fey is killed. When he wakes up, he blames Phoenix for not being able to save Mia, but in reality, Diego was just blaming Phoenix because he couldn't admit that he blamed himself for her death.
- Nimmel in Dominic Deegan, Oracle For Hire had constantly pushed away a girl who was trying to befriend him because he didn't think she was attractive enough. The day he was finally ready to apologize for his behavior and accept her friendship was the day the Infernomancer attacked the academy; she was among the dead.
- A mistake he gets to correct later.
- Discussed in this Get Medieval strip.
- Discussed/Invoked in this Xkcd strip.
- In this Homestuck flash, Equius explains to Nepeta how sad he is that Aradia didn't even say goodbye to him before she exploded. He then defies this trope by making a point of saying goodbye to Nepeta before going to face Gamzee.
- In the Disney version of Beauty and The Beast, when Belle agrees to stay as the Beast's prisoner in her father's stead, the Beast drags Maurice off as Belle shouts "wait, wait!" When he returns to the tower where she's being kept prisoner, he finds Belle sobbing "You didn't let me say goodbye! I'll never see him again, and I didn't even get to say goodbye!"
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The ending and the end credits song.
- Subverted in the South Park episode "Tweek vs. Craig", in which the shop teacher constantly says this about his dead fiancée. When her ghost appears to him and he finally gets to say it, he realizes it didn't make him feel better at all.
- Jem was in a fight with her mother and neglected to say "I love you" on the night that she died.
- Played straight and for laughs, interestingly enough, in Pixar's Cars, where Mater is upset that he never got to say goodbye to his new friend Lightning McQueen after he is suddenly whisked away to a big race. The next time they meet, Mater greets McQueen by saying "goodbye."
- Teen Titans, "Cyborg the Barbarian": Cyborg is summoned back in time to help fight a war against monsters and grows close to a warrior named Sarasim, only for his friends to pull him back to the present during the final battle. With no idea what happened to her and her people, all he can do is say "I didn't even get to say goodbye." To his relief, Raven finds a history book showing the tribe's victory.
- In Voltron: Legendary Defender, Shiro is quietly but intensely upset when he finds out that his First Love Adam was Killed In Action before he returned to Earth.
- A real life example can be found in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul 2 volume, the story called "Good Night Dad", in which the author had considered telling his father that he loved him, but did not, and the next day, found out that his father had fallen to his death.
- In a Truth in Television example, shortly after the death of Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan said that they had only recently buried the hatchet after years of feuding, and expressed regret that they spent so long hating each other when all along they should have been good friends.