The Deathbed Reveal

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connect the Dots.”

This is such a random prompt suggestion that I just had to try it…turn to page 82 in the book nearest you, take the third full sentence, and work it into a post somehow. Very interesting.

As it so happens, the nearest book to me right now is my own book, and the third full sentence on page 82 is thus:

“I just wanted to let you know because I’m not…I’m…”

A little mysterious, hmm? Not exactly revealing a great deal with that random sentence out of context, are we?

Well I’ll let you in on a little bit of the story. Without revealing too much I can tell you that this little piece of dialogue is part of a confession/apology, and the confession/apology is coming because the person making it believes that she is about to die.

That’s a bit depressing, isn’t it? But it’s actually something that occurs in books, movies, TV shows, and video games all the time. Someone does something horrible, or keeps a huge secret for years and years, and only on their deathbed do they pluck up the courage to apologize or reveal the secret, because they suddenly realize that they can’t die without mending this fence.

What do you think about this particular trope? Does it make sense in the fictional world because it’s something that occurs regularly in the real world? Or are we perpetuating a lie by insinuating that people feel the need to clean the slate when they believe they’re about to pass on? If someone keeps a secret inside for that long, would they really feel the need to reveal it at the end? Is this only a religious thing (“I won’t go to heaven if I don’t make this right”), or do you think people with no belief in the afterlife would react the same way on their deathbed? I’m interested to see what you guys think because I’m really not so sure myself. It’s a great storytelling tactic for sure, but if I had done something horrible or kept a huge secret, I’m not sure I would really give much of a damn in the face of my own impending death. So what do you think?

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15 thoughts on “The Deathbed Reveal

  1. A) Thanks for bringing these prompts to my attention. I’ve tried a couple of them and want to try more.
    B) I was following your lead and was going to try this one. I suppose I still could, it’ll just need a twist. I opened the book nearest to me (The Book Thief) from the last prompt I wrote on (using the first sentence of your favorite book) to page 82. Lo and behold, it was blank.
    C) As for your prompt, I think literature/cinema has perpetuated this stereotype of attempting to free ourselves of all guilt, sin and secrets on our deathbed. It makes for good storytelling.

    • A) No problem! They’re awesome! 😄
      B) Hahaha…that just figures, right?
      C) It definitely makes good storytelling, that’s for sure. Even if it’s not particularly realistic, but then, how much of literature/cinema is really all that realistic? 🙂

    • See, that’s how I feel too. A guilty conscience can be a powerful thing, but I figure that if I kept the secret my entire life chances are I’m not going to suddenly feel the need to reveal it before I die.

  2. In some cases, people do feel the need to wipe the slate clean before death. But I don’t think it is because of the “get into heaven free card”. I think it’s because of their guilty conscience. In fact, if you have kept a secret for years and decided on your death bed that you have to get it off your chest, I think the person is being a selfish asshole because the ones that are left behind are the ones who have to live with the lie; therefore taking the confessor off the hook. Unless it was millions of dollars in my attic, I would take the secret to grave.

  3. I can see why books/movies/tv series/video games use this plot line. It can be a powerful twist, a great ending, a shocking moment. Thinking about it in a real life situation, I’m not so sure. I mean lying on your death bed holding in a secret from your loved ones, and all the sudden you feel the need to let it go. Usually when you are keeping a secret it’s because it’s something you are ashamed of or something that would hurt your loved ones. Why would you want to burden them even more? You are about to die, leave them in a world of grief and despair, and you’re going to add “By the way I killed a man once…” to their suffering? Definitely a douchey move in my opinion.

    • I’m inclined to agree with you on that one. If the secret were something that would help out your loved ones (hidden money or something like that), I could see doing this, but if it were “Hey, I murdered this guy one time”, or “I’ve been cheating on you for the last twenty years”, all you’re doing is adding this huge layer of extra stress and pain to the grieving process.

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