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Comfort the Dying

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Priest Luis Padillo offers a dying soldier his last rites.

It goes without saying that the mere thought of death is a terrifying thing. While we're all going to die one day, nobody wants to go through the process of dying. After all, in fiction, it's usually slow and painful, and while you may be able to get off a Deathbed Confession or two, you'll never be able to say everything you want to say. It's worse still if you haven't lived a full life, or have one or more major regrets.

But it's not all bad. Sometimes, someone will be around to provide comfort in your last moments. In works, this character is usually a loved one of a kind, such as one of the hero's True Companions. Otherwise, it's a Nice Guy who just happens to be there, or it could even be a Pet the Dog moment for a morally ambiguous character. In some rare cases, the main antagonist might even show their Hidden Depths by staying by the side of the soon-to-be departed until they breathe their last. The important part is, this character is here, and they take the time to make the dying feel comfortable and happy before they pass.

This can result in some subtropes:

The exact opposite is Dying Alone, which is the painful alternative that makes this trope so powerful by contrast. Related and overlapping tropes are Go Out with a Smile, You Are Not Alone, Died Laughing and Died in Your Arms Tonight (a character may hold a dying person to comfort them). This may come from a moment of Delirious Misidentification.

As a Death Trope, spoilers are unmarked!

Examples (not covered in the subtropes):

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Angel Sanctuary: As Kato lies dying, an Alexiel-possessed Setsuna holds him and comforts him by verbally guiding Kato towards the light, which allows Kato to die more peacefully.
  • Attack on Titan: In his introductory chapter, Captain Levi does this with one of the scouts who was fatally wounded, with the soldier asking if his sacrifice meant anything. Though pained and likely feeling that it wasn't, he affirms it to be so. Though the soldier passes before he can respond, Petra Ral notes that the scout's face is that of one who died at peace.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has protagonist Tanjiro do this from time to time, staying with some of the demons he's killed until they take their last breaths and expressing sympathy for them.
  • In Inuyasha, two monsters of the week named Manten and Hiten. Manten in particular wanted to take Kagome to cure his baldness and look more handsome like Hiten. However, once Inuyasha kills Manten, Hiten tells him that he loves him just the way he was, and then tries to avenge him.
  • At the climax of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka ascends to become the goddess of hope and Psychopomp for magical girls. What follows is a beautiful montage of magical girls across all time and space succumbing to despair, with their soul gems fully corrupted, only for Madoka to appear in front of them, smiling and cradling their soul gems as they pass away happily.

    Comic Books 
  • One issue of Top 10 sees Peregrine called upon to provide comfort to a pair of aliens who have become fused with each other after a teleportation-related accident. She has the unhappy task of telling them that they will both likely die within a day.
  • Wonder Woman: Black and Gold: Diana brings Cathy Perkins, her old supporting character from her mod era, to gaze upon a sunset in her last moments before she dies from cancer.

    Fan Works 
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Kyril did this at least three times throughout his life. The first was when he had a final conversation with his mentor figure Eileen the Crow, staying with her until her breathing stopped. The second was when he told a white lie to Ludwig so the once great hunter would rest in peace. The third was during the events of the main story, where he Mercy Killed the Brainwashed and Crazy Luu-Luu, holding her in her last moments.
    • Celestine is implied to have done this in Chapter 24 of the original, when she lends her assistance to the healers patching up the critically injured. Especially during the time where a patient has received six hours of surgery and ended up dead anyway.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Atonement, this is one of Briony's duties as a nurse during World War I — sitting with dying soldiers and holding their hands so that they don't have to die alone.
  • In Big Fish, the "climax" of the film is Will telling his dying father, a lover and teller of tall tales of his life, a tall tale of his own in which Will helps his father escape the hospital and chased by the law enforcement but helped by all the characters from his father's tales until they reach the lake from his youth and becomes the titular fish. Needless to say, his father is more than pleased to leave the mortal coil on that ending.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: The final barbarian corpse interrogated by the party finally gives them a lead on the Helm of Disjunction: he had barely escaped the battle and was on the verge of death, only for wandering paladin Xenk to stumble upon him. According to the barbarian, Xenk somehow made him feel like everything was going to be okay, despite his impending death.
  • Fury (2014): In the aftermath of the hedgerow tank assault, Bible is seen approaching a dying German soldier. He holds the dying soldier's hand and asks him calmly if he was a praying man. The German weakly nods and Bible brings him through his last rites in English.
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, one of the few moments of true decency in the film's otherwise bleak setting is when Blondie (who is supposed to be the titular Good, but has mostly just been A Lighter Shade of Black) finds a young soldier dying in the aftermath of a Civil War battle. Without hesitation Blondie removes his coat and wraps the young man in it to comfort him, then gives the kid One Last Smoke from his cigar. Blondie even ignores the fact that one of his rivals is getting a head start towards the fortune in gold that all the main characters are trying to claim while he stays with the young soldier.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Thor: The Dark World: After Loki is seemingly fatally stabbed by Kurse, he starts to repeatedly apologize to Thor, gasping and looking distressed. The latter calmly tells him that it's okay and promises to tell their father about his sacrifice while cradling Loki in his arms. At the end of the film it's revealed that Loki faked his death, but Thor remains none the wiser.
    • At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos snaps his fingers causing fifty percent of all living creatures to be Reduced to Dust. Peter Parker's Spider-Sense tells him that he is going to pass away and he gets terrified, sobbing that he does not want to die. Tony Stark hugs him and tries to calm him down before Peter eventually turns to dust.
    • In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man is suffering from the Cast from Hit Points effect of the Infinity Gauntlet, which he has just used to utterly disintegrate a Galactic Conqueror and his armies. In his final moments, his best friend, his protégé, and his wife are the ones to comfort him as he struggles to stay alive, but it's a battle Tony is losing, and they all know it, as the toll of the Infinity Gauntlet had already been established as nearly too much for Hulk at peak condition, whereas Tony used it after a prolonged skirmish that left him running on fumes. With Tony's stubbornness serving only to prolong his pain, he finally passes, peacefully, when his wife tells him that they'll be okay thanks to his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Viktor Taransky directs S1m0ne and her costar, Hal Sinclair, in his latest production. S1m0ne's character lies abed dying, while Hal's character professes his undying love. Of course, Hal is saying this to an on-set stand-in, because S1m0ne is purely digital, and can only appear as post-production computer graphics.
  • In Heat, after fatally shooting his criminal adversary McCauley during the final shootout at the airport, Lt. Hanna silently holds McCauley's hand as he bleeds to death while planes land and ascend behind them.

  • The Hunger Games:
    • Katniss spends a good chunk of the 74th games bonding with Rue, who reminds her a lot of her beloved little sister, Prim. When Rue gets fatally wounded by Marvel, Katniss stays with her until she dies and uses that time to sing her off.
    • In the 75th games, the tributes are stuck on an island full of timed traps. During an attack by crazed monkey-mutts, an older woman from District 6 known only as "The female Morphling" sacrificed herself for Peeta. In return, Peeta brought her to the beach and held her until she died. Since they have the Commonality Connection of both loving to paint, he describes his paint set at home and all the beautiful colors of the sunrise, and she uses the last of her strength to paint a flower on his cheek with her blood, making her Go Out with a Smile.
    • They both take after their mentor in this regard, since Haymitch also did this in his Games for his district partner and ex-ally Maysilee Donner when he found her dying from a mutt attack, holding her hand and staying by her side.
    • Rounding out the tradition of District 12 tributes doing this, Lucy Gray Baird also did so for Jessup Diggs, her own district partner who had been infected with rabies. She keeps her physical distance from him for obvious reasons, but verbally comforts him, and gets close enough to him to stroke his forehead once he's too weak to move anymore and finally succumbs.
    • In a villainous example, Cato for Clove after Thresh fatally wounds her.
  • The Stormlight Archive: In a flashback, Shallan comforts her father while she strangles him to death for trying to murder her brother. The knowledge that his Sanity Slippage was partly, albeit inadvertently, caused by her is only part of the Trauma Conga Line of her backstory.
  • Doctor Sleep: After finally overcoming his alcoholism, Dan Torrance finds work in a hospice, where he uses his psychic powers to provide comfort to dying patients. This is what acquires the nickname "Doctor Sleep."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spoofed on Community in the episode "Modern Warfare". After Shirley is eliminated in the paintball match, Britta goes to comfort her.
    Britta: Shirley! Shirley, I am so sorry.
    Shirley: I'm going home, Brit-ta.
    Britta: Yes, you are. Yes, you are.
    Shirley: No, seriously. I'm going home. Can you help me up?
    Britta: Oh. Sure.
  • The Pacific: One of the more emotional moments towards the end of the series has Eugene Sledge stumble onto a dying Okinawan woman in a cabin. He can't do anything more than comfort her, and despite the Language Barrier he stays with her until she dies.
  • House:
    • In the season 6 episode "Lockdown", the hospital is locked down when a baby goes missing from the maternity ward. Dr. House ends up trapped in a room with an elderly man with only a few hours left to live. With nothing else to do, curmudgeonly loner House bonds with the man and helps him say his goodbyes to his daughter by leaving a voice message.
    • In the season 1 episode "Histories," when it becomes clear that the patient of the week is going to die because her diagnosis, rabies, is untreatable, Foreman decides to go out immediately after needing to get the rabies vaccine himself (she had bitten him earlier in the episode), in order to see if he can find the mysterious James that she keeps talking about so that she won't die alone. This winds up being for naught, as he discovers that both James (her son) and her husband, Paul, had died two years prior in a car crash. He comforts her the best he can afterward by pretending to be Paul and "forgiving" her for the car crash (she had been the driver).
  • In Babylon 5 there's an episode in which a plague is spreading through the Markab population. Delenn and Lennier go into the isolation zone for this purpose.

  • Tears for Fears: In "Last Days on Earth," the narrator reassures his ailing loved one that he'll be by their side until they pass away.
    I told you
    I'd hold you
    'til the last days on Earth

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the revolutionary-themed Tabletop RPG Comrades, there is a special mechanic called "Cradle a Dying Comrade", when a Player Character attempts to comfort another who is dying due to loss of all Hit Points. The comforting player makes a single die roll, modified by their Relationship Values with the dying one, and on a good roll, the latter may miraculously survive, or at least leave the former with some last words that will inspire their fellow revolutionaries later on (i.e. giving them bonuses on rolls done in memory of their late comrade).

    Video Games 
  • A Way Out has the final climax gunfight between Vincent and Leo. Whichever one survives, they will make a point of not leaving the other alone until they're gone.
  • Choice of the Vampire: The Player Character can choose to comfort their grandmother on her deathbed by talking with her, leave her to die alone, or brush off her hopes of seeing an afterlife.
  • In BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2, Elizabeth gives Fontaine the code for a trigger phrase for his sleeper agent which in turn would kickstart the plot of the first BioShock game. Of course, not long after, he kills her with a wrench (Though nearly doesn't get the code because he brains her before asking what it said as he can't read it. She remains conscious long enough to tell him). However, he keeps his word to let the Little Sister he had held captive, Sally, go. As Elizabeth dies (though contently, since she knows that Jack, the protagonist of the first game, will stop Fontaine and Andrew Ryan, avenge her and save the other Little Sisters), Sally stays with Elizabeth and comforts her with a song in her final moments.
  • In the Golden Ending of Myst IV: Revelation, when the Stranger manages to transfer Sirrus out of Yeesha's body to prevent a Grand Theft Me, Achenar has to force the Life Stone into the old Memory Chamber's heart in order to keep it alive long enough for Yeesha's mind to return. But to do so, he has to break the glass container holding in the heart's toxic gases, and the Stranger has to enter the Dream world to force Sirrus' mind to let go of Yeesha's. After the plan works, Achenar turns up poisoned from the fumes, admitting that he's better off dying after his past atrocities. He lasts long enough for Yeesha to stroke his hair while collapsing in her lap.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition: While Cole can often be found doing this throughout Skyhold for the dying Inquisition soldiers, if he is allowed to stay, many of the Inquisition's soldiers and staff can be overheard commenting on strange happenings throughout Skyhold. It's later revealed that Cole was behind all of them as acts of compassion and mercy. In one particular case, he arranged to spill some peaches over a fireplace, so that the smell would remind a nearby dying soldier of their happiest memories of their home, before passing on. Fittingly, this is because Cole was originally a spirit of Compassion.
  • Final Fantasy IX has Kuja being defeated by the heroes and uses his Ultima spell in attempt to kill them as he dies. When the party beats Necron afterwards, Kuja uses the last of his strength to teleport the heroes out of the Iifa Tree before it collapses. Zidane goes back to find Kuja because the two are brothers (in a sense) and he didn't want him to die alone.
  • In the Heavensward expansion of Final Fantasy XIV, Haurchefant, a close friend of the Warrior of Light, commits Heroic Sacrifice in the form of taking a light spear intended for them. As he lays dying, he tells the distraught Warrior that A Smile Better Suits A Hero, to which the Warrior smiles despite their own despair, comforting Haurchefant as he passes.
  • In Planescape: Torment, there's a potential encounter if you go into the Lower Wards with Dak'kon in your parting as the two of you find a githzeri woman who's dying of a lung disease due to the ward's polluted air. If you allow it, Dak'kon will speak to her and comfort her before giving her a Mercy Kill.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The player character finds a woman on her deathbed with the same Mystical Plague that, unknown to her, killed her boyfriend. In a bit of Video Game Caring Potential, they can lie to her that her boyfriend sent them to take care of her; if they're Malkavian, they can convince her that they are the boyfriend and comfort her as she dies.

    Web Animation 
  • The four Maidens in RWBY normally pass on their powers to the last person they're thinking of when they die (provided that the person in question is a woman under the age of 30), so a simple act of kindness towards them in their final moments can sometimes be all it takes to inherit their abilities. This is how Penny ends up taking on the mantle of the Winter Maiden from Fria in the Volume 7 finale.
  • Shrapnel: As Goggles lies dying from his wounds, Reznya does her best to humor him by trying to sound excited about the cellphone he brought her.

  • The Order of the Stick: Downplayed after the fallen Paladin Miko is fatally injured in an explosion of her own doing. The spirit of her order's founder can only manage faint praise for her efforts and doesn't pretend that she's redeemed herself, but concedes that she'll see her celestial horse in the afterlife.
    Miko: OK... OK, then... I can live with that. [dies]
  • Alone, Together has Sergeant Jerom recovering from a cracked skull in the ship's infirmary. Another patient, mummified in bandages, mutters something unintelligible. A combat veteran, Jerom knows severe burns are both painful and deadly. Jerom holds the fellow's hand until, "A life-time later" according to the panel header, medics come to check on them. Jerom is taken back to his bed, while the deceased patient gets the sheet pulled over him. Mutters Jerom to himself, "No one should have to die alone." Chapter 3, page 15, specifically.
  • Unsounded: Duane arrives at the Red Berry Boys' hideout in time to find Cara cut open and dying on the table. He tries to heal her and comfort her, but she's ready to die and be with her parents and passes quickly.
  • The Zombie Hunters: One rare variety of zombie is infamous for seeking out hopelessly sick and injured humans, trying to comfort them, protecting them from other zombies, and finally delivering a clean Mercy Kill.
  • Harbourmaster: Tal cares for his mentor Partasah throughout his final illness, though Partasah is alone with his husband when he finally dies. Partasah's child explains how important this duty is in their culture:
    Gilou: You looked after Partasah when he was dying, didn't you? Made sure he was never alone, never needed for anything? Let him know he was loved and that his life was appreciated? You performed the final duty. It's important to us that a person doesn't die alone. Not if it doesn't want to.

    Web Videos 
  • The Cry of Mann: After Jouglat gets killed by Frank, Ghost Lady stays by him as he passes on, even giving him food and talking him through his pain and fear.
  • An animated short video Trois Petits Chats has a feline father visit his ailing daughter in a hospital. She's in quarantine and begins a horrifying coughing fit. When no one comes to check on her, the father defies the quarantine and enters the room to give what comfort he can. Almost immediately, his skin begins to fracture like porcelain, a sign that he has contracted the virulent malady. Viewable on YouTube here.

    Web Original 
  • From the SCP Foundation, SCP-4999 seems to exist to do this, seeking out lonely, dying subjects and staying until they pass.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League: In "Epilogue", Terry (from Batman Beyond fame) confronts a now aged Amanda Waller about how he's Bruce's biological son. As she explains herself, she relates to him a story in which the Royal Flush Gang reformed (last seen in "Wild Cards") with new members save Ace who had given the others powers. However she had developed an aneurysm from her psychic powers and her death could potentially cause her power to level Gotham from the feedback. Amanda had given Bruce a device that could kill Ace before this happened. But when Bruce got to her, he simply talked with her, knowing that she was simply a scared girl afraid of her impending death. Thus he stayed with and comforted her to the very end of her life, letting her pass on peacefully and nullifying the threat without violence. This can be seen here.

    Real Life 
  • Anyone who has a loved one that is diagnosed with terminal illness or a pet close to euthanasia will likely have to remain with them during their final moments so that they can die peacefully.
    • Some primitive hunter-gatherer tribes, both during prehistoric times and even in the present day will do this to their prey which they hunt after their quarry is finally slain, with the hunter performing ceremonial gestures that ensures that the quarry dies peacefully in the hands of the hunter.


Video Example(s):


"Viva Bias!"

In an oddly human moment for a killer robot, Guardnoid Gash cheers up the senile Great Professor Bias by feeding his master's dying delusion that he won.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ComfortTheDying

Media sources: