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I think I'll find another way
—Madonna, "Die Another Day"
On the brink of death, a character is told that he must go on because it is not his time to die.
It tends to play out something like this: Bob is seemingly offed. But wait! He's in the next scene, and in some kind of overexposed or soft-lit white expanse, perhaps with fluffy clouds. Here, he is usually greeted by a dead loved one (or several), but sometimes he is visited by some form of Death, or some form of God, an angel, or any other appropriate gatekeeper. Ultimately, however, Bob and his visitor's interactions boil down to this: "You cannot go yet, Bob. It is not your time."
Alternatively, the visitor will tell Bob he has the choice of whether he goes with them or returns to the living. Bob goes back to the living almost invariably, and it's probably exactly what his visitor expected to hear.
- Rurouni Kenshin: This occurs in Season 2, when Kenshin is fighting Big Bad Shishio. He is laying on the ground, bleeding, thinking to himself, "Is this the end?" when he has a flashback/vision/visiting from his master, who tells him "Live on, Kenshin!" In the manga, this takes the form of a Loved Ones Montage.
- In Dragon Destiny, a comatose and almost dead Hakufu is visited by the spirit of her Disappeared Dad, who more or less delivers this line.
- In Saint Seiya anime, episode 32, this occurs to Ikki when taking a (temporary) beating from his Evil Counterpart Dark Phoenix. One very rare instance of Ikki being beaten and relying on Power of Friendship, as his departed first love Esmeralda tells him he still has to fight on.
- Cowboy Bebop: Knocking On Heaven's Door:
- As an example of this as a stock phrase, Vincent nearly kills Spike and throws him out a monorail to die. Spike is rescued by some people who look like Native Americans, one of whom tells him that it wasn't his time.
- The older one is Laughing Bull, who shows up from time to time in the series.
- The Skull Knight in Berserk gives this as his reason for pulling Guts and Casca out of the fire during the Eclipse.
- During Triela's attempted Last Stand in chapter 80 of Gunslinger Girl, she gets injured (even more so after losing an arm and a leg) to the point where she blacks out and sees what she thinks is the afterlife. She meets Rachelle Belleut (her "mother"), who tells her it's not her time and shuts the door on her, at which point she wakes up to see that Hilshire went back for her.
- Subverted in Fullmetal Alchemist. After being attacked by the homunculi and losing consciousness, Al finds himself floating in a white void. A soft voice calls out to him, telling him that it's too soon for him to die. It's Pride, and he can't very well let Al go until after he's served his purpose.
- In the Bill and Teds Excellent Adventures comic, this happens to Death's landlady: Death's replacement Mort tries to reap her soul, but she remembers that her tenant once told her she still had many years left to live. Mort is fired for messing with the natural order.
- Emma tells Katchoo this when the latter is on the verge of death.
- Kirk, after his death, says this to Spock in this Slash Fic. Don't worry: It is work-safe.
- DC Nation plays with this. While The Endless are part of the universe, Death herself is very enigmatic about when it is and isn't someone's time. She does have a pair of "agents" working on her behalf, though. Jonah Hex is her "bounty hunter," collecting the souls that are overdue, and the Original Character Ash (the ghost of a 9-11 firefighter) is sent to protect people who shouldn't die yet.
- In One Small Kindness: "For a genius, you can be, like, really dense. Why do you think? You came pretty damn close, but you aren't dead."
- Half Life: Full Life Consequences 2. "These birds dont have to see Gordon Freeman yet. its not time."
- In Bruce Almighty, Bruce is hit by a truck before waking in a white expanse and having a chat with God about it. Perhaps subverted in this case, as Bruce has been chatting with God regularly throughout the film.
- In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Cloud falls unconscious, when he hears the voices of his deceased friends, Aerith and Zack, tell him that he doesn't quite belong with them yet.
- Parodied in the Saturday Night Live spin-off film Superstar, a TV falls and crushes Mary's dog. Her Subconcious Version of God then tells him it's not his time and to go back, ultimately having to throw a treat back into the world of the living to get him to leave.
- Heaven Can Wait (1978).
- Joe Pendleton is in a traffic accident and finds himself in the afterlife. He's informed that an inexperienced angel plucked his soul out of his body too soon, before he actually died. Unfortunately his body has already been cremated, so he has to return to life in the body of someone else who has died. A remake of the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
- Which was also remade as the Chris Rock vehicle Down to Earth.
- The Frighteners: The main character is delighted to be dead so he can be reunited with his wife, but she tells him to go back and enjoy being alive.
- Last Action Hero. Death tells Danny — a young boy at the time this takes place — that he dies a grandfather.
- Revenge of the Fallen: The heaven Sam goes to has Autobots in it for some reason.
- In Deathly Hallows, Harry is nearly killed by Voldemort. Next we see him, he's in some kind of surreal void, and is greeted by Dumbledore, who has been dead since the last book. Ultimately, he asks Harry whether he wants to go back to the living; an opportunity Harry takes, of course.
- Several Badger Lords in Redwall, notably Sunflash the Mace.
- In the Discworld book Mort, the anthropomorphic personification of Death is out fishing. His lure scares all the fish into the basket of someone fishing nearby, who is then pulled into the river. Death saves him, and when asked why, responds with: "For later".
- At the end of Sabriel by Garth Nix, the titular protagonist is seemingly killed, but upon entering Death she is greeted by the spirits of her ancestors, who tell her that as she is the last of the family line, she must go back until there is another.
- Bionicle: in Inferno when the Toa Inika reach the Chamber of Death, Matoro offers himself as a sacrifice so that the rest can continue further. He is promptly killed ... and then revived, as the voice that commanded the sacrifice says it wasn't his time and lets the group continue on. The whole trial in the chamber was a test of courage.
- The protagonist of Shadowmancer is ripped up by a demon and sees a vision of Riathamus (who's clearly the Abrahamic god), and given the choice of going to Heaven or being resurrected- he chooses to go back and save his friends.
- In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf falls exhausted after defeating the Balrog atop the mountain. But his bosses don't let him die, for he still has work to do.
- Happens to Apollus in Warriors Of Cumorah after he drowns in the creepy time-travel river. His Dead Little Sister tells him to hold his breath, his time is not yet. Probably a good thing.
- In the Mercedes Lackey Heralds of Valdemar book Arrow's Fall, the ghost of Talia's dead friend Kris appears to her after she has been thrown back in her cell after a session of Cold-Blooded Torture. When Talia tells him about her plans to kill herself to escape further torture, he tells her that it isn't her time yet. And indeed, she is rescued in the middle of her suicide attempt. This also happens to Herald Vanyel in The Last Herald Mage trilogy, when the Shadow Lover (the Angel of Death) gives him a choice.
- The X-Files gives these to both main characters. Scully gets hers in the season two episode "One Breath" (in which her deceased father gives her the trope line). Mulder gets his in the season three episode "The Blessing Way" (where his deceased father and Deep Throat both give him the line).
- Hiro Nakamura in the latest season of Heroes.
- Battlestar Galactica Classic (1970's version) episode "War of the Gods". After Apollo is killed by Count Iblis, his body is taken aboard the ship of the "angels". The "angels" say that Apollo was not meant to die and that Ibis had broken their laws by killing him. They then bring him back to life.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Tapestry".
Q: You will go on with your life with a real heart.
- In the episode "The Fisher King: Part II" of Criminal Minds, Elle talks with her dead father after being shot by an unsub. Somewhat bizarrely, the entire conversation (which is interspersed throughout the episode) takes place on the team's jet, which is slowly being emptied of furniture. At the end of the episode, Elle returns to life, and her father promises they'll see each other again, when it's her time.
- On Sliders, the gang landed on a world where people were conducting afterlife experiments by killing and resuscitating people. When they did it to Quinn, he saw his father who told him it was not his time.
- Happens to Sofia from Golden Girls twice, both times seeing her late husband Salvadore and being tempted to stay.
- One of Jeff Foxworthy's bits has him speculating that catch and release must be like a near death experience for fish.
Jeff: "I saw all my dead relatives, and God was there. He was wearing a flannel shirt and said, 'It is not yet your time, go back.'"
- In one episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a rather morbid kid obsessed with death is mistaken for a wandering spirit ready to enter the afterlife by some sort of spiritual attendant (played by Gilbert Godfrey). He eventually gets thrown into the afterlife...and is promptly thrown out. He explains that "they" said he wasn't dead yet. The kid seems to take that to heart and is noticably less morbid at the end of the episode.
- Mac gets told this, though not verbatim, by his late wife Claire in the CSI: NY episode 'Near Death', where he's been shot and is hovering on the brink.
- Inferred in a funny variant in an episode of The Golden Girls where Rose has a scare from overworking herself-we don't see it, but she tells everyone about it afterward.
- Earthdawn supplement Earthdawn Survival Guide. Some dying Name-givers who have unaccountably revived have said that when they appeared before Death, he told them that "their time had not yet come" and returned them to life.
- Used in a lot of videogames, especially MMORPGS, as a half-assed justification for death not being permanent.
- In World of Warcraft, the Val'kyr in the Death Knight starting area actually say this word-for-word when they resurrect you. The Lich King also says it during an Alliance quest if the player gets too close to him (though he kills you anyway, just for lulz).
- The text box for Spirit Healers also says this. Seems like everything in Azeroth that's not trying to kill you is trying just as hard to keep you alive.
- Fable 2: When you get shot by Lucien and fall from the window of Castle Fairfax, Theresa and your dog find you.
Theresa: Death is not your destiny today, little Sparrow.
- Kratos chooses his time in God of War. Even the Judges of the Underworld admit that Kratos did not belong in the afterlife yet.
King Radamthas: Your future is cloaked in shadow. The world of the afterlife is not yet ready for you.
- In Might and Magic VI, a figure that appears to be a cross between The Grim Reaper and the boatman to the underworld says this to the player if the entire party is knocked out, killed or eradicated.
"Though eternity lies before thee, thy work in the land of the living is not yet done. Return, brave ones. I am certain we will meet again... Ho ho ho ho..."
- The Darkness tries to stop Jackie Estacado from committing suicide over his dead girlfriend, Jenny.
- Order of the Stick: Jirix was sent back from the Afterlife by the Goblinoid god, The Dark One.
- In The Phoenix Requiem, Jonas inverts in chapter 2 (his late wife appears to him while he is unconscious urges him to move on, but he refuses), and then played straight in chapter 20.
- In The Randomverse, Superman has one of these, meeting up with Captain America.
- Batman the Brave And The Bold: Batman with his parents the ones waiting at the light. Although in his case it's more he decided he wasn't ready yet. The goddamn Batman will die when he is good and ready, thank you very much.
- The Simpsons in the episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car." The Devil says Bart isn't due, "until the next time the Yankees win the World Series - that's almost a century from now."
- Played with in All Dogs Go to Heaven. Charlie dies, and, well... he's explicitly told that it was his time, but he refuses to stay dead. He breaks the rules and sends himself back, and when asked for an explanation, he lies, "What can I say? It wasn't my time."
- In the Watership Down TV series, Campion's enounter with the Black Rabbit of Inle in the third season. Campion tells him that he's tired and ready to go, but the Black Rabbit turns him down and gives this as his reason.
- In season 2 of Wakfu it's revealed that Sadlygrove's ascension to the afterlife was halted by Rubilax. This example is less benevolent than most since Rubilax had ulterior motives.