The Last Message Received Tumblr: heartbreaking farewells

US teenager launches collection of people’s final communications from loved ones

Last messages are unlike last words. The ending they precede is not always obvious. Your text or email inbox may hold messages that only time will cast as terminal.

This truth becomes apparent time and again on The Last Message Received, a Tumblr on which people post messages that turned out to be the last they heard from a loved one or friend. Sometimes the ensuing silence represents a severance, sometimes death. Some of these correspondences end badly, some end well, and many end before their time. A few clearly are meant not to be last messages and have been posted in the hope of eliciting a response.

Its creator, 15-year-old Emily Trunko, has received more than 3,500 submissions since she launched the Tumblr on November 9th – it has 40,000 followers – and some are horribly ominous. "Hey, can you send me the flower pics from grammas funeral?" someone asks, shortly before their own surprising death. "I'm not gonna drive drunk. I promise. I'll talk to you later, love," another text says. You can probably tell what happened next.

Occasionally the mournfulness is lightened with terseness. “Bitch stfu.” Or “I just can’t be seen with someone that looks like you do. No offense lol.” But mostly these posts are a miscellany of loss. Which is surprising given that Ms Trunko says she has never known heartbreak herself, “beyond some pretty small crushes that were unrequited”. So what attracted her to the subject matter?


"I've always been interested in the flurry of emotions that comes with heartbreak," she says. "I'm a very sensitive person." The Last Message Received is Trunko's second Tumblr to be built on anonymous contributions. The first, Dear My Blank, in which people posted letters they had written but not sent, was so successful that it earned her a book deal – and a boyfriend. He submitted his unposted letter, Ms Trunko emailed him back, they "kept talking", and are still together nine months later. (She is too busy to reply to contributors now, but keeps a "document of email addresses" from people who "sent worrying submissions" and every now and then checks in on them.)

Ms Trunko runs the Tumblrs from her home in the small town of Copley, Ohio. She is lone among her siblings in attending Ohio Virtual Academy, meaning all her lessons are online. Her teacher stands between a whiteboard and a webcam, and Trunko and her virtual classmates watch from their homes. Copley sounds quiet: a population of 14,000, "a couple of alpaca farms". What does she leave the house for then? "School events or going to the park or the grocery store."

“I definitely live vicariously through the submissions,” she says. “I’m probably the first person, other than the person who initially wrote the letter or received the text, to read these submissions. That’s a pretty amazing feeling.”

Guardian Service