To Absent Friends

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The flame of the inn is dim tonight,
Too many vacant chairs.
The sun has lost too much of its light,
Too many songs have taken flight,
Too many ghosts on the stairs.
Charon, here's to you as man against man,

I wish I could pick 'em the way you can!
Grantland Rice

Two or more characters gather to grieve for a dead comrade, without a formalized structure. They reminiscence about the fallen, how much he will be missed—or has been missed.

An actual wake is possible, as the bereaved can talk and drink without a ceremony to go through. Or they may meet somewhere, and talk. (They may not even intend to grieve, but they end up doing so.) A bar is likely, because the wake often involves alcohol—so often that it generally does not appear only if it is impossible. Expect the dead to be toasted. (Drowning My Sorrows may convert into this if the drinker bumps into another friend.) Sometimes the drink is poured on the ground as a Libation for the Dead.

Soldiers on a mission may start to talk, and lead to this, if they are waiting for something and have lost a comrade. (The situation in which alcohol is least likely to feature. But the Military Moonshiner may have some.)

The informal equivalent of a Meaningful Funeral. Possibly it immediately precedes or follows it, although that is unlikely, because the two scenes concentrate on the same emotions, and so are likely to duplicate. Also compare Personal Effects Reveal.

May also feature long after the death (or deaths) as characters remember all their dead and tell stories of them. The toast is often "To absent friends". This can overlap with Tell Me About My Father.

Suitable for a Bittersweet Ending or a Downer Ending, but can happen anywhere in a story—even as a Framing Device at the very beginning of a work that Starts with Their Funeral. Remembering the sacrifice may inspire characters to fight on, lest it have been a Senseless Sacrifice.

Contrast Forgotten Fallen Friend, Dead Guy, Junior.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of To Absent Friends include:

Anime&Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In Death Note when the real L, the Hero Antagonist dies, Light laughs on his grave, subverting this trope.
  • Raizen's old comrades-in-arms gather at his grave with lots of sake and flowers in Yu Yu Hakusho.
  • In Monster, Grimmer's grave gets a visit.
  • Maes Hughes' grave in Fullmetal Alchemist.
    • There is a scene in the 2003 anime adaptation where his widow comes to visit the grave, only to discover that someone else has already left flowers. Yes, Roy Mustang, we're looking at you.
  • When Wolfwood dies in the Trigun manga, he and Vash share a final drink while he goes in what effectively is his wake. Then, when Livio wakes up from healing the fight damage, Vash has made a vast quantity of spaghetti, and their spaghetti-eating is several symbolic things, including affirmation of life, signal of Vash's willingness to accept Livio, and meal in honor of Wolfwood. It is the saddest spaghetti ever.
    • Vash also pours a bottle of whiskey off an observation platform in the anime version of Inepril. Not even clear just who he's honoring, but it's probably the dead. He has a lot of them.
  • The end of Guilty Crown has this for Hare, who died seven episodes earlier. The final episode features the surviving cast sitting together at a table with a cake that says "Happy Birthday Hare" with an empty seat in front of it.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The focus of the first half of volume ten (appropriately titled the Wake) of The Sandman.
    • Also invoked in "Season of Mists".

Hob Gadling: To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.

  • In The Mighty Thor, after Skurge the Executioner settles whether he or Thor will say You Shall Not Pass (by knocking out Thor), Skurge asks them to remember him at Asgard. Later, when Thor and Skurge meet in Hel, Skurge asks, and Thor is grieved to have to tell him that crises have kept them too busy to do so.
  • This trope is the title to Chapter II in Watchmen, showing the funeral of the Comedian and how his attending colleagues remember him.
  • The Rogues do this after one of their own is killed. They then have a "Rogue's Wake"
  • At the end of Nexus: Alien Justice, Horatio, Sundra, and Judah toast: "To absent friends and those still here. To justice, and home-brewed beer!" Something of a subversion, in that at least two of the friends they're toasting, Dave and GQ, are alive and well, just absent, and then GQ pops right back in just at that moment anyway.

Fanfiction[edit | hide]

Film[edit | hide]

  • Played straight in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.
    • Not totally for Spock, as Bones was unable to attend the get-together due to his apparent breakdown a couple scenes before.
    • Also played straight in Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • Théoden's heartfelt "Hail to the victorious dead!" speech in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, as the Rohirrim remember their fallen brethren after the Battle of Helm's Deep.
  • Subverted in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Frank proposes a toast "to absent friends". Unbeknownst to everyone but Frank (and possibly Riff-Raff and Magenta), the body of the recently slain Eddie is right under the table they're dining on.
    • Correction: The recently slain Eddie is what they're dining on. The uncooked leftovers are stored under the table.
    • The line was later used in the booklet included with the 25th Anniversary DVD edition as a tribute to actor Charles Gray (The Narrator), the only non-surviving cast member at the time of that release.
  • Parodied somewhat in "About Schmidt", when the emotional ex-husband of Warren Schmidt's daughter's fiance's mother gets up to give a speech at the restaurant table. "If only my parents were with us today... but they are really here... right now... hi, Mom... hiya, pop..." Most of the family watches him give his speech, while Warren's head rolls around in meds-induced ecstacy.
  • The quiet reflection in Tia Dalma's hut in Pirates of the Caribbean, wherein the crew of the Black Pearl contemplate the death of Captain Jack Sparrow and the destruction of his ship due to the Kraken.
  • Die Hard 3 When the bad guys are celebrating the successful theft, they're toasting to several things and then one says along the lines of 'auf gefallen kameraden', which translates something like 'for fallen comrades'. There is a moment of silence and then they all toast in honor of their lost brethren.
  • Subverted hilariously at the end of Fifty/Fifty: at the end of the climactic battle, Jake and Sam are both very badly wounded, but the crowds storming the palace are preventing Sprue from reaching them. The next scene is at an outdoor cafe in Rome, where Sprue, alone, has purchased three glasses of champagne. He lifts one and toasts Jake and Sam, saying "sorry you couldn't make it." Just as he's about to drink, Jake yells from off camera "Sprue, you rummy! You couldn't even wait for us?" He and Sam walk up, bandaged and on crutches, but otherwise fine. It turns out Sprue did wait for them, but they were forty-five minutes late.
    • Played straight later in that same scene, of course, when Jake and Sam remember Suleta, who really did die in the war.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Nearly universal in any sort of military fiction
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Only In Death after Gaunt's apparent death, Larkin barges into Rawne's office although Rawne is the commander. They reminesce about their Founding and how few of them are left, whom Gaunt took off Tanith. Larkin proposes toast to "Old Ghosts"; Rawne, to "Staying alive"; and then, in unison, they toast "Ibram Gaunt."
  • The novelisation of Betrayal at Krondor ends with this in honour of Gorath, complete with a toast.
  • Happens in the book First To Fight by David Sherman and Dan Cragg, it pops up throughout the rest of the series as well. To be expected, in a military series.
  • Occurs in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Night Watch, where the members of the Revolution gather every year on the twenty-fifth of May to remember their comrades who were killed.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Ragnar's Claw, after Ragnar is gravely injured and Lars killed, Ragnar is too ill to attend the funeral. When he is well enough to stand, the other young Space Marine gather, and their first words are "To Lars."
    • In Lee Lightner's Wolf's Honour, Ragnar and Torin talk of Haegr at their last meeting.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 novel Storm Of Iron, Leonid opens his first briefing by offering a toast to his predecessor.
    • Later, alone in his office, he pours himself a glass and drinks "To Princeps Daekin". Captain Eshara joins him, and they exchange condolences over the deaths in their respective forces.
  • One of George Macdonald Fraser's McAuslan stories features an impromptu informal party with the narrator (a young officer) and a handful of his men. They use the old four-part toast to lost friends:

"Here's tae us."
"Wha's like us?"
"Damn few."
"And they're a' deid."

Runt: "Face cannot drink yet, but we can drink to him."
Janson: "And to Ton Phanan and Castin Donn."
Dia: "And to scars you can peel off whenever you no longer need them."
Face: "And to-"
Dia: "And to friends who don't try to fool you all the time."
Face: "Dia, this is Wraith Squadron. You're never going to have that."

  • John Ringo and David Weber have this as pretty much the toast whenever characters drink. Often the reason why people drink in the first place. Their joint series, Prince Roger has this in spades.
    • Weber manages a particularly vicious subversion of this in Echoes of Honor, when Honor's Mother's pregnancy has been announced and that therefore Honor's sibling will secede her as Steadholder Harrington. Admiral Yanakov asks to make a toast. One expects this trope to be invoked, and is instead given: "Your Grace, My Lords and Ladies, Ladies and Gentlemen all, I give you Steadholder Harrington....and damnation to the Peeps!"
  • In Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novel Turn Coat, Morgan is officially denied a Meaningful Funeral as part of the coverup. They resort to an impromptu wake instead.
  • Locke Lamora practices the Camorri tradition of "pouring a glass to air," setting out a drink for a friend who's gone—whether that means dead, or simply long absent.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Beyond the Black River", Conan the Barbarian and the sole survivor of the fort discuss the deaths at the end, particularly Valannus and Balthus.
  • The first book of the Invasion cycle in the Magic: The Gathering books ends with this. The united forces of Dominaria have dealt a mighty defeat to the invading Phyrexians, and there's a massive celebration. But three men sit apart: Urza, who lost longtime friend Barrin, Gerrard, who lost his love Hanna, and Agnate, who dealt a mercy kill to his 'brother' and comrade Thaddeus.
  • In a few of his Callahans' books, Jake and the gang deliver what they call the "All-Purpose Toast"; "Here's to all those who weren't as lucky."


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In one episode of Mash, Colonel Potter acts oddly. At the end, he reveals that he and some comrades had found some cognac in an abandoned French chateau during World War I, saved the last bottle, and declared that the last survivor would drink a toast to the rest. Potter is now the last survivor, and draws in the MASH staff to hear his story and share the bottle.
  • Battlestar Galactica Reimagined has this trope, like many others, to an art form. It's played quite frequently in the Viper rec room, especially. Apollo's retirement toast is an awesome example of the trope. (involving five shots of a potent drink—quite possibly eau de flight deck):

"To Galactica!" (Apollo takes a first shot amidst cheers)
"To the men and women of Galactica!" (Apollo takes a second shot, amidst more cheers)
"To the Admiral..." (murmurs of approval) "who commands the men and women of Galactica!" (Apollo takes the third shot, with cheers of approval)
"To our sweethearts, husbands, and wives!" (Apollo downs the fourth shot, amidst the cheers of the previous toast. He then waits for the room to settle before delivering the final toast)
(quietly): "To absent friends." (The room respectfully falls silent)

    • I just got goosebumps from reading that... and I've never even seen the show.
    • There's a great one in the season two episode "Scar," where Starbuck tries to toast all the deceased pilots by name/callsign. This one is especially moving given that she had earlier claimed that she didn't remember any of their names and didn't care to because they were dead and gone so who cares…

Starbuck: To BB, Jo-Jo, Reilly, Beano, Dipper, Flat Top, Chuckles, Jolly, Crashdown, Sheppard, Dash, Flyboy, Stepchild, Puppet, Fireball...(stops, crying)
Apollo: To all of 'em.
Admiral Adama: So say we all.
Crew: So say we all.
Starbuck: So say we all.

  • News Radio had one of these episodes for Phil Hartman's character after Phil's real-life death. Despite the attempts of the writers to inject some humor into the scene it fell painfully flat as the cast was barely holding it together.
  • Sesame Street. Mister Hooper. That is all.
  • Rescue Me does this fairly frequently (particularly the transition from Drowning My Sorrows), especially with respect to the firemen lost on 9/11 (a recurring theme, if not the central one of the show).
  • At the end of Torchwood episode "Captain Jack Harkness", Jack and Tosh have a toast "To Captain Jack" in honor of the war hero whose identity Jack appropriated.
  • In the final episode of Babylon 5 Sheridan invites his surviving friends to have dinner with him one last time. He then invokes the trope by name, and they name absent friends to toast to. Garibaldi names G'Kar, Vir names Londo, Delenn names Lennier, and Dr. Franklin and Ivanova name Marcus.
  • The West Wing episode "Requiem" combines this with the Meaningful Funeral to provide a heartfelt (and Tear Jerker) send-off to Leo McGarry and, by extension, his actor John Spencer. Combined very effectively with the Meaningful Funeral at the beginning of the episode; the funeral is presented so as to mourn Leo's death (and Spencer's), whereas the wake is about celebrating his life and how much his friends loved him.
  • The Next Generation has an episode in which they find Scotty persevered in a transporter beam for over seventy years. As the events of the episode wear down on Scotty, he takes a private moment alone in a holodeck simulation of the original Enterprise where he toasts to his now gone comrades.
  • In the Deep Space 9 episode 'The Sound of Her Voice', the crew of the Defiant holds a wake for Lisa Cusak which ends with Miles O'Brien making a speech that brings this troper close to tears. Made even more moving by the fact that this is the very end of the episode before Jadzia's death, arguably the first true main cast kill outside of the films.

The war changed us... pulled us apart... I want my friends in my life, because someday we're going to wake up and we're going to find that someone is missing from this circle. On that day, we're going to mourn, and we shouldn't have to mourn alone.

    • Done more lightheartedly when Julian and O'Brien come off the holodeck dressed as Spitfire pilots, and raise a pint of bitter "To Clive!"
  • The closing in scene of "The Breaking Point" in Band of Brothers has Sgt. Lipton narrating while he and the rest of Easy Company are resting in a church. He begins listing off the casualties they suffered over the course of the Battle of the Bulge and the corresponding soldiers start fading away until the church looks far emptier than it did before. It's a particularly heart-rending scene.
  • The Pacific does this as well in episode 3, with Basilone and Morgan ordering about a dozen different drinks and toasting their dead friend Rodriguez, and even getting into a fight with another patron who makes a tactless comment.
  • CSI New York has done this twice, first for Aidan Burn near the end of the second season, and then for Jessica Angell at the end of the fifth season.
  • In the finale for Space: Above and Beyond, Wang gives one of these, listing every Wildcard to die during the show's run, as part of the Battle Cry that he gives during his Last Stand to cover the escape of the ship carrying the rescued colonists.
  • The Freddie Frinton sketch Dinner for One, which is shown every New Year's Eve on German, Austrian and Swiss TV.

Music[edit | hide]

He puts on a suit over his Airborne tatoo
And he ties it on one time a year
He remembers the fallen as he orders a tall one
And swallows it down with his tears...

  • Opeth has a song titled "For Absent Friends".
  • "Kak zdorovo" ("How great it is"; often referred to by its entire refrain - "How great it is that we have all gathered here today") by Oleg Mityaev is probably the most popular campfire song in the former USSR. Its third verse is a dedication to the memory of absent friends, perhaps deliberately invoking the third toast tradition mentioned in the Real Life section below.
  • Turisas - "One More"
  • Lunasa has a song called Absent Friends, and it invokes the feeling of this trope rather well. It begins slow and mournful, as a gathering of friends remembering their fallen would be. Midway through, however, the tempo picks up notably, perhaps as a way of saying "Our absent friends wouldn't want us to mourn forever, so lets knock one back, for them!"
  • Saxon, a Heavy Metal band, has a song named "To Absent Friends", written in honour of a deceased friend.

Radio[edit | hide]

  • Garrison Keillor describes one of these on his show, A Prairie Home Companion. The old coots go out for the opening day of duck hunting season. There they are in the blind, and they have a toast for fallen comrades. The guy only gets a few names into the list before he breaks down. The unspoken sentiment is that there are now so many names, and it'd be disrespectful to forget any, so maybe it's time to give up on listing them all.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • The meal scene in Journey's End after Osbourne dies. Possibly a subversion in that they're trying to forget about it rather than remember him.
  • The songs "Drink With Me" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" in Les Misérables fall into this trope. In the first, the students at the barricade are toasting each other's impending fate the night before the penultimate battle; in the second, Marius is reminiscing about those who fell at the barricade.
  • In Shakespeare's Macbeth, this trope is subverted as in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Macbeth proposes a toast to everyone's "general joy" and "to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss; Would he were here!" Unbeknownst to the guests, Banquo has been murdered and his ghost has returned to haunt Macbeth.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • At the end of Jak II, Samos toasts to the members of the Underground who died in order to help save the city.
  • Both named and unnamed characters will participate in a small but significant battle in Dragon Age Origins. The cut scene which follows will vary according to which named characters fell in the battle.
  • Commander Shepard can do this in Mass Effect 2 when drinking with Doctor Chakwas. In 3, several characters do this as the body count climbs. Tali actually gets plastered while mourning Miranda, if the latter doesn't survive Sanctuary.
    • Weirdly Tali does so even if she does survive.
  • After the quest "All that Remains" in which Leandra dies in Dragon Age II, Aveline will ask how Hawke is feeling in her office. After recounting how her own father died, Aveline will offer a drink to Hawke. Hawke can propose a toast to those they have lost.
  • The ending cinematic for Legend of Dragoon shows Dart placing a mug next to a picture of Lavitz.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Look up Sitting Up With the Dead by Ray Stevens, on You Tube.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • "To Absent Friends" is a real toast offered at military banquets. In particular, it is the traditional toast for Sunday night in Commonwealth navies. (And the US Navy, I think.). At some banquets, it is illustrated literally by having an empty table set aside and specially decorated in memory of POW/MIA's.
    • At least the Golden Corral restaurant nearest me (don't know if they all do) keeps one small table always decorated thusly, with an explanation posted of each symbolic part of the table. It's touching and refreshing, oddly, all at once, to see such a memorial setting put out in the eye of the general public.
  • In Russia, the obligatory third toast, as long as the company drinking contains at least a substantial minority of Army/Navy/Airforce men, both active and retired.
  • In Santa Rosa, at the Charles Schultz Museum [1] there is a table still set for him at the adjacent Warm Puppy cafe. People are welcome to sit there, and share his favorite space.
  • Almost all Roleplayers start the first session after a player dies (note a player, not a character) with the phrase 'To absent friends, let the adventure continue'

Other[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in an old joke about an Irishman (or other stereotypical hard drinker) who goes to a bar every week and orders a round of three drinks—one for himself and two for his brothers, who are alive but live far away. Each brother does this as a sort of long-distance show of kinship. One day he shows up and orders only two drinks—the bartender, fearing the worst, offers his sympathies but it turns out one of the brothers had just given up drinking.
    • In some versions it was him who decided to quit drinking.