But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
So, you're a Death Seeker, are you? You've lost everything, or you've been dishonored or wronged beyond endurance, and now you're charging off to get yourself killed in the big battle ahead? Ha! Luxury. Some of us can only dream of the sheer indulgence of surrendering ourselves to a sweet, sweet end! Unfortunately, we've got a to-do list as long as your arm to deal with first.
Suicide Missions don't grow on trees, and the "Mission" part generally trumps the "Suicide." Not every character to whom life has become a burden can kill themselves or even allow themselves to die. Sometimes there's a task or an obligation that must be discharged before they can ever have peace. It might be some grand quest only they can complete, or it might simply be the knowledge that people are depending on them, or will be devastated by their loss. Sometimes such a character must reluctantly fight to survive even though they don't want to. They might be allowed to "die trying" to complete some objective, but not until they've exhausted every possible effort they can make.
Of course what happens to such a character can vary — some will find that the obligation to keep living has actually helped them to weather the psychological storm and when their task is done, they're free to enjoy life after all. Others will die in trying to fulfill their responsibilities, or shortly afterward, as if their bodies knew it was safe to give out now.
Compare The Atoner, who may also be a Death Seeker but chooses to go on living to repent for their wrongdoings. For when their task is to kill everyone else first see Put Them All Out of My Misery. Compare with The Last Dance. For those not allowed to rest even in death, see Purpose-Driven Immortality and the Flying Dutchman .
- In the final arc of ''Code Geass', Lelouch becomes functionally suicidal after losing all of his allies and apparently losing Nunnally in the FLEIJA explosion. He ends up building himself up as the world's biggest tyrant and having his friend Suzaku take up his former mantle as Zero and kill him.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, after the end of the series; Homura wants nothing more than to be with Madoka; and this will only happen if her Soul Gem goes dark. She will not let this happen, because she has expanded her desire to protect Madoka to protecting the world that Madoka loves. Thus we see her in the end fighting Demons with a level of power and possibly darkness that would have killed any other magical girl instantly.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, we find out what determination has led her to. Even after being pushed to her limit and then nearly transforming into a witch, even when Madoka comes to take her to the afterlife, Homura refuses to let go... and instead takes over Madoka's powers and becomes a Dark Messiah so that she can protect Madoka for all eternity.
- In the manga version of Elfen Lied: Lucy decides the last thing she will do is protect Kouta, just before the American army decides to bomb Japan to get rid of her. She takes out a whole fleet of aircraft, one by one, all while suffering Phlebotinum Breakdown, literally causing the flesh to melt off her body. Not until every last plane has been taken down does she let herself die, by which time she's little more than a puddle of goop with half a face.
- In Hellsing, when Anderson shares a Dying Truce with Alucard after being defeated by the No Life King, he asked somewhat in pity how long Alucard would have to continue his miserable existence, to which Alucard answered "Until my past is demolished by my future."
- Zest of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, who still needs to confront his old friend and learn the reason behind the death of his original together with the rest of his squad, backstab Jail Scaglietti, then make sure his charges will be safe afterward before he could finally seek his final honor as a knight.
- One Piece has Brook, who openly expressed in his introductory arc that he has desired to die (again), after remaining in maddening isolation as a living skeleton for 50 years. However, he made a promise to return to Laboon, the Team Pet of his old crew, and play for Laboon the crew's last recording.
- Played with in Monster, to put it gently. Johan ultimately wants to die, but he must destroy Bonaparta first.
- Hohenheim of Fullmetal Alchemist, after learning of his wife's death and her last words being that she couldn't die with him, says that he hopes to join her once Father has been defeated. Riza says that if Roy goes against his ideals, such as killing Envy for the sake of vengeance, she will kill him, then commit suicide after the battle is over.
- In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Sai Saici asks Argo whether the latter is prepared to lose his life in combat. Argo doesn't back down from fighting the Dark Gundam's forces, but says that he can't afford to lose his life as long as he hasn't rescued his friends yet.
- Bruno Bucciarati from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo technically dies when he first fights The Boss, but somehow lingers on until the very end.
- In Moriarty the Patriot, William's plan involves his own death, but only after removing all the other devils from the world first. As soon as he accomplished that, he rushed toward suicide.
- Ever since his family was killed by criminals, The Punisher has waged a literal war on crime, killing criminals despite the best efforts of the judicial system and other superheroes to put them behind bars. One thing that keeps getting thrown in his face by criminals and heroes alike is that his slayings won't bring his family back, or durably reduce crime in New York City (much less the U.S.). What they never seem to get is that Frank knows and has long since accepted this; he's simply killing criminals until his inevitable death and reunion with his family.
- Punisher villain Thorn woke up from a nearly(?) successful attempt on his life remembering nothing but his killers' faces (including Frank's). Now he feels no pain or emotions, shrugs off any and all injuries no matter how severe, and neither needs nor wants to sleep at all. Like a vengeful ghost, he just wants to settle unfinished business so he can finally rest. He describes himself as being already dead and/or living in a dream, and both stories/arcs featuring him draw explicit comparisons between him and Frank.
- Nate Grey, unusually, really doesn't want to die, but for most of his solo series, feels that it's inevitable thanks to his in-built genetic time-bomb. As a result, he spends most of his time trying to make sure that the main Marvel Universe doesn't become a second Age of Apocalypse. Then, his time-bomb is defused, and he has more time to relax and enjoy life... then sort of dies... then comes back and loses most of his powers... then gets them back and the time-bomb with them, leading to his decision that making the world better - by force, if necessary - is the only option he's got left before he dies.
- Child of the Storm has Doctor Strange, who's very old, very tired, and very, very much embittered by what he's had to become in order to counter Thanos - a lonely, untrusted, and incurably manipulative puppeteer forced to outlive almost everyone he's ever known, and go against everything he ever wanted to be. All he really has left is his given word, characterised by his inability to directly lie, which is why he goes berserk the one time someone suggests he might be breaching it. It's heavily implied that he wants to die, just to get it over with.
- In Winter War, Captain Ukitake's Incurable Cough of Death has become significantly worse due to exposure to a chemical weapon, his best friend is MIA and probably taken captive, and the order he's devoted his life to has collapsed. He's tired enough that he wouldn't mind dying that much- especially in something approximating a fair fight, rather than the traps and dishonorable battles he's had to employ against Gin's forces. Unfortunately, he's also the only shinigami captain left alive, in Soul Society, and not on Aizen's side- so he steps up to become the leader of La Résistance. At this point, he's living only for his people and his duty.
- Emiya Shirou in The Hill of Swords. The titular 'Hill of Swords' is where he knows he'll meet his end. He keeps seeking it out, but he can't find the opponent that can kill him until the end.
- Mercury of Phoenix-fire is eventually revealed to have been living this trope for the past 400 years. Even going so far to remain living that he made a Deal with the Devil in the form of becoming a Shade, sort of. It's complicated. At the end, it is revealed that his Thanatos Gambit failed, and he is doomed to a Fate Worse than Death forever.
- In a refreshing break from the usual Dumbledore-bashing, the Albus Dumbledore of Weres Harry? is revealed to be a tired old man who's trying to do three jobs at once, unable to lay down any of his burdens because there is no one else to carry them.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In the sequel, Picking Up the Pieces, Blazen Sun has a conversation with his fellow Captain Memorizing Gaze and remarks how, at 140 years old, he is the last of his generation; his comments indicate that, while not suicidal, he is tired and looking forward to the day when he can retire and pass his position on to his lieutenant, but he can't bring himself to do so just yet, feeling there is still more for him to do.
- In The Book of Eli, Eli is on a Mission from God to deliver a Bible to people who will make good with it. He's spent the better part of three decades crossing the post-apocalyptic United States of America while blind and at the climax he gets shot in the gut by the Big Bad and is very visibly dying by inches, but he toughs it out long enough to reach the outpost in Alcatraz Island where information is pooled to rebuild society and narrate the entire King James Bible (which he spent all of those years memorizin) to be written down. In his final voice-over, he's thankful to God for finally being able to rest.
- After seeing his wife and child crucified and losing his freedom, Maximus of Gladiator seems to view his quest for vengeance against Commodus this way:
Maximus: "You see, my wife and my son are already waiting for me."
Juba: "You will meet them again. But not yet. Not yet."
- Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings - see under Literature. Somewhat less explicit in the movie, but the commentary points out that a scene in which a vision of Galadriel pulls Frodo to his feet after he collapses and tells him that he must continue seems hopeful, but is also cruel because the exhausted Frodo "can't even die."
- In Telefon, the Soviet agents are activated with the Robert Frost poem that is the page quote. They do indeed have miles to go before their mission is done and they are Driven to Suicide.
- The title character of Logan. Due to the longevity that his Healing Factor has given him, he is physically about 200 years old, with another 50 years of memories left over from his adventures in Mental Time Travel. He has seen all of his friends die twice (except Jean, whom he saw die three times; once at his own hands). His healing factor has slowed to a crawl thanks to adamantium poisoning, leaving him scarred, arthritic (he is shown to have trouble even putting a shirt on) and perpetually sick. He even carries an adamantium bullet, the only thing capable of killing him, and the only thing keeping him from using it is his Undying Loyalty to Charles (and later, Laura).
- In Haunter, protagonist Lisa is the spirit of a teenage girl that was killed when an evil ghost, the Pale Man, possessed her father and used him to murder the entire family. He then bound their souls to the house they lived in, to be tormented forever for his sick amusement. Lisa eventually has a chance to flee the house with her family to find peace, but instead she decides to stay behind to fight her tormentor, knowing that not stopping him would mean the deaths of yet another innocent family within minutes, and possibly more in the future. Only when the Pale Man is defeated for good does she move on to join her family in Heaven.
- Until the Continuity Reboot of Terminator Genisys and the Unreboot of Terminator: Dark Fate, this was part of Sarah Connor's fate as a Posthumous Character in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: shortly after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she was diagnosed with leukemia and given six months, but lived for years, long enough to see August 29, 1997 come and go without incident. That said, she was still Properly Paranoid enough that her casket was loaded with weapons (Sarah herself had actually been cremated).
- Frankenstein intends to hunt his monster to the end of the Earth and destroy it before allowing himself to succumb to despair and embrace the oblivion of death. The monster, for its part, literally does lead Frankenstein to the end of the Earth; they are both last seen in the Arctic Circle.
- Both Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings, in different ways. Frodo is committed to carrying on towards Mount Doom—ultimately even crawling on hands and knees—despite a long, quietly deepening certainty that the quest is hopeless. Sam tends to take a more one-day-at-a-time approach, but when he finds Frodo, apparently killed by Shelob, his first instinct is to consider suicide, or be cut down by Orcs defending Frodo's body. Only with great reluctance does he realize that the responsibility to destroy the ring trumps his personal despair and resolves to carry on alone. Often, later, he regrets bitterly that the two of them cannot just "lie down and go to sleep." Sam, incidentally, does recover his will to live an ordinary life, while Frodo doesn't.
- In Brisingr, Eragon forces Sloan to do this until he gets to the Elves, as atonement for betraying Carvahall.
- Rand al'Thor in The Wheel of Time epitomizes this trope until the end of book twelve.
- He doesn't epitomize it from the start; it probably wasn't until the end of the third book that he finally stopped being in denial about how arduous his fate would be. He gets steadily ground down by his burden from then on, and by the 10th book he is a wreck and no longer has normal human reactions to much of anything. He has at least three What the Hell, Hero? moments in book 12 but by the end of the story has something of an epiphany that maybe life is worth living after all.
- In the Borderlands they have a saying, "Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain."
- The Bolo short story Miles To Go. Bolo Nike has had her beloved commander murdered, and has had an unstoppable virus destroying her computer core activated by the renegade officer who killed him. Quoting the poem listed at the top of the page, she turns upon the army trying to conquer the planet she is based on. By the time the virus destroys her main processor, she has done so much damage to the invading army that the severely understrength planetary militia can finish the job.
- The House of Responsible Life from the Liavek anthologies is a religion built around this trope. The members of the religion are sworn to kill themselves, but only after discharging all worldly obligations. Very few of them get around to it, and at least one eventually decides that living is worth it after all.
- Camaris in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is this after being reawakened from his simpleminded state, which was itself a result of a Heroic BSoD that drove him to attempt suicide. He fights to save the world as hard as anyone else, but feels that simply being forced to live is yet another punishment meted out by God for his sins. His fate at the end is unknown.
- In Bone Dance, Frances wants to kill every last one of the bodyswitching Horsemen who caused a nuclear war. Herself included.
- In The Black Company, Goblin has this when he is resurrected and possessed by the Khadidas, and is given a chance by Croaker to kill the goddess Kina.
- The title character in Eden Green makes it her mission to destroy fellow infectees of an immortal needle symbiote before allowing herself to commit suicide. This theme is repeated in the sequel, New Night; Lucas is suicidal and narcoleptic, but constantly forces himself onward to protect others rather than (literally or figuratively) lying down to sleep.
- Played with and then invoked in-universe in The Elenium. In the second book, Sparhawk and company have a truly scary, horrifying encounter with a noblewoman who's turned to the worship of Azash, with all the resulting monstrous acts that implies. Her brother, the local Lord, can't bear to have her executed for her crimes, so the Knights build a one-cell prison for her instead. In the third book, Sparhawk encounters the Lord's devoted manservant, who was also the main caretaker for the imprisoned woman, among the massing army. Unable to take the strain - especially the constant howling and screaming - the servant poisoned the woman and has run off to join the army, and hopefully die in battle, to expiate his sin of murder. Sparhawk takes him to Patriarch Bergsten, who sizes up the situation in a glance during a quick explanation. Bergsten sternly tells the manservant that he will not take the coward's way out with his thinly disguised suicide attempt, and he will thus forward work for Bergsten, who will make certain he suffers for his sin, so he can one day die in God's grace. After the manservant is dismissed to begin his duties, Bergsten tells Sparhawk that he fully understands the manservant's actions, but the man would never believe anyone who tells him that. Bergsten will work him just short of too hard, and make lots of thunderous pronouncements and occasionally shout at him, to make the manservant feel that he's suffering. Once the manservant has recovered from and worked through his trauma and guilt, Bergsten will make him the Abbott of a nice quiet monastery somewhere. Sparhawk calls Bergsten a Manipulative Bastard. Bergsten shrugs and more or less says 'Yes, that's one of the reasons God recruited me'.
- Taylor's mindset throughout most of Worm, after leaving her initial Death Seeker phase. Taken Up to Eleven in the final fight when the only thing keeping her from going crazy from a deadly upgrade is her drive to kill Scion - the minute the enemy is dead she promptly falls apart.
- Daylen in Shadow of the Conqueror, is a Death Seeker who wants nothing more than to die and be released from his endless guilt, but believes that living and making amends to the world is the punishment chosen by the Light, and as a devout Lighseeker, does everything in his power to stay alive and complete his Redemption Quest.
- The Licanius Trilogy: Caedan desperately wants to die (in order to rejoin his beloved wife, as some atonement for the atrocities he's committed in the past, and because his life is part of what's holding open the gateway into the Darklands), but he has a great many things he has to do first, and it's not until the very last sentence of the last book in the trilogy that he finally dies.
- Mouse (2021): Ba-reum plans to commit suicide, but first he wants to clear Yo-han's name and catch Chi-guk's murderers.
- Towards the end of season five of Supernatural Dean is sick and tired of fighting, and just wants to die...but the angels have made it clear they'd just bring him back. His only out is to agree to participate in the apocalypse, which he won't do because of the collateral damage. Lucifer makes much the same threat to Sam.
- The Babylon 5 episode "Comes the Inquisitor", Sheridan and Delenn are tested by an inquisitor sent by the Vorlons, eventually revealed to be Jack the Ripper. He is depicted as having acted in part out of moral judgmentalism, and as a result was picked up by the Vorlons in a random act of poetic justice, and forced to sort out the truly righteous from the simply self-righteous.
"I have done four hundred years of penance and service, a job for which they said I was ideally suited. Now, perhaps, they will finally let me die."
- The first half of Collin Raye's "Love, Me" is about a man who waited for a woman to run off with him so they could get married. When the second chorus rolls around, it's the woman who "got there" before he did, and the first part's trope combines with this one.
- "From the North" by Runrig quotes the poem directly: "I've a will and I've a wanting/And miles to go before I sleep."
- Stay Close Sit Tight by Malcolm Middleton:
I can feel stuff comingIm scared of a life of painJust round the corner is sadness and miseryTomorrow I can dieToday I need to sort this outStart with the kitchen, the bedroom, then my family
- Céline Dion recorded a Corey ("Sunglasses at Night") Hart song called "Miles to Go (Before I Sleep)" on her 1998 album Let's Talk About Love, although the title of the song is the only part of the poem referenced. Hart also produced the recording.
- Warhammer gives us Baragor, the so-called Slayer King. Rather than going to seek his glorious death in battle like the rest of the Slayers, he's forced to run his city-state. His solution is to turn his city into a home for Slayers. Warhammer Dwarves being what they are, all of Baragor's sons for five generations have become Slayers themselves.
- Slayers in general are an interesting variant of this trope. Dwarfs who have suffered an extreme dishonour become Death Seekers, as death is the only thing that can redeem their shame. However, Dwarfs are psychologically incapable of suicide, to the point where they are physically unable to do the deed even under great duress; as such, they have to let enemies kill them instead. However, not just any old death will do - the death has to be suitably epic, preferably against a great foe, for the death oath they swear is to die in glorious combat against impossible odds. The "unlucky" ones find that their own talent at fighting outstrips the calibre of the foes they face; thus, frustrated by their inability at leaving their death oath unfulfilled, these slayers wander the world searching out the greatest monsters and villains imaginable in the hopes that one of them will finally overcome the slayer's fortitude and grant him the death he so craves.
- In the 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons supplement The Book of Erotic Fantasy (a 3rd party supplement dealing expressly with sex and all its aspects in the terms of the d20 system), there is a spell called Shadow Life. It is distinctly separate from the theme of the rest of the book, as on its own it has no sexual connotations. It grants the target (a recently-dead character) one extra day of life for every level the caster has. The flavor text is especially poignant.
A life cut short. A quest left unfinished. One more task to be done.
- In the Complete Guide to Liches, one variety of Lich is not granted eternal undeath, but rather an extension until they fulfill a task.
- In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Horatio tries to finish off the poison and die beside Hamlet. Hamlet stops him, asking him by the love he has for Hamlet to live to tell the story of what happened.
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story. . .
- Kratos seems to be acting this way throughout Tales of Symphonia. During one of the climactic scenes, Lloyd chews him out on it.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Between his accelerated aging and the threat of the mutant Fox Die causing a pandemic, Snake knows he's not going to be around much longer, but he still has to take out Liquid first.
- Auron in Final Fantasy X actually died trying to avenge his friends before the game, then as an Unsent lived for ten years so he could guide his friends' kids to finish the job.
- Thane Krios of Mass Effect 2 is a drell assassin who is dying of Kepral's Syndrome, a terminal lung disease that often occurs in the drell race living on Kahje due to high moisture content in the air. He has dedicated the final months of his life to only taking hit contracts on people he feels deserve to die. Then he joins Shepard's crew to do One Last Job: helping to save the galaxy from the Reapers. If he still lives in Mass Effect 3, he does One More Last Job: saving the salarian councilor from Kai Leng, at the cost of his own life. "That assassin should be embarrassed. He let a terminally-ill drell prevent him from accomplishing his mission."
- By the end of of Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard seems to be operating in this mode. Severely wounded to the point of only being able to slowly limp along, they seemingly reach the end of the road, collapsing to the floor, only to receive a message from Admiral Hackett asking them to do one more thing. Wearily, they soldier on a little bit longer.
- In The Walking Dead, the protagonist, Lee, is bitten by a Walker. Despite just having hours to live, he actually seems pretty OK with his fate, so long as he can do one last thing: Save Clementine. He can elect to have his arm cut off to try and slow the infection, goes through a horde of Walkers, and rescues Clementine from the Stranger. In the final sequence, the only reason he's not a zombie yet is sheer willpower, though he can't hold it off forever...
- Hanbe Takenaka of Sengoku Basara suffers from tuberculosis, a death sentence during the Sengoku Era. With his time limited, he devotes pretty much every waking minute to expanding the Toyotomi empire, and putting Hideyoshi in charge of Japan before his number comes up.
- Red Dead Redemption II: After a lifetime of thieving and killing, contracting tuberculosis spurs Arthur Morgan, especially a high-honor Arthur, into doing as much good as he can, and he refuses to go down until he either gets killed by Micah Bell or succumbs to TB.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Wynne is actually already dead by the second time you meet her (you have the chance to chat to her in the Ostagar section of the prologue), having given her life to save a Circle student from a demon. However, a friendly spirit sees her Heroic Sacrifice and possesses her in order to bring her back. Wynne starts out very concerned about being possessed (as Demonic Possession is a serious problem in the Dragon Age universe) but can be reassured that she is still a good person. She admits to the Player Character that she has no idea how much extra time the spirit has granted her, but she intends to stay alive long enough to see the Blight defeated.
- She eventually dies via Heroic Sacrifice nearly ten years later, transferring the spirit's protection to her son's lover to save her life.
- The The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim quest "Lost to the Ages" introduces us to Katria, a seasoned adventurer who died during her search for the legendary Aetherium Forge. Her apprentice promptly stole all of her research and published it as his own. Katria's ghost has been bound to Nirn ever since, unable to move on until she can track down the Forge and complete her life's work by proving its existence. Only when she and the Dragonborn finally forge the last Aetherium artifact ever can she let go to take her place among the honored dead of Sovngarde.
- Wolfenstein: The New Order gives B.J. a serious case of Dented Iron. He's exhausted, mentally and physically, especially after he spends fourteen years in a vegetative state. He just wants to stop fighting, but can't. He's too good a person to let the Nazis win. Best exemplified by a line from the Prologue Mission when he's receiving CPR.
B.J.: Death at the Gates again. Howling My name. Can't greet you today. I have a War to win.
- In the "Insanity Ending" of Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator, You learn that Cassette Man, presumed to be Henry from "The Silver Eyes", had a hand in making the animatronics that later led to so many deaths, a fact he greatly regrets. He notes that he "Could make [himself] sleep", but not until he undoes what Purple Guy did.
- In Subnautica, the Sea Emperor Leviathan was already ancient when she was captured by the Precursors and has endured for another thousand years in a tiny containment chamber, alone, to ensure that someone will come and hatch her eggs and ensure the survival of her species (and with them the survival of every lifeform on Planet 4546B - her species produces an enzyme that cures the Kharaa bacteria). Only a minute after her eggs hatch and her young swim for the portal into the shallows, she collapses and allows herself to pass after a final telepathic speech to the player.
- When the Black Gate is raided, Talion's wife and son are sacrificed in front of him at the beginning of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, with himself only surviving because an elven wraith bonds with him, leaving him unable to die. Although he wants to die to see his family again in the afterlife, he makes it his personal goal to drive Sauron from Mordor, with the assistance of the wraith. In Shadow of War, he turns down several opportunities to die in the name of stopping Sauron, even taking one of the Rings of Men and risking becoming a Ringwraith if it can buy the rest of Middle-earth more time. The true ending to that game shows Sauron's defeat, after which Talion is finally able to die and reunite with his family.
- Kurt Vonnegut described feeling this way about his writing career: "It was the same when World War II ended. The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people's discharges and stuff. And my feeling was 'Please, I've done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?' That what I feel right now. I've written books. Lots of them. Please, I've done everything I'm supposed to do. Can I go home now?"
- Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru reportedly had a copy of the poem on his desk (or on him somewhere) throughout his life. It has since then served as a metaphor for his country, according to some.
- U.S. President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was also fond of the poem, and quoted the ending lines at the end of many of his campaign speeches in 1960.