giving up the ghost with a sigh that sounded positively...

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Karen123456

Senior Member
Malaysia English
And his mother died soon after, giving up the ghost with a sigh that sounded positively happy, for it was her own son who ministered to her in her last illness and who sat pressing her feet at the last moment - such a son as few women had borne.

What does the sentence mean, especially the part in bold? I think 'ghost' doesn't mean 'spirit', but 'memory'. However, the sentence is vague to me.

Many thanks.
 
  • MichaelW

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    The 'ghost' here is the soul or spirit, and 'giving up the ghost', letting go the spirit, is a common expression meaning 'dying'. The spirit at the moment of death is sometimes imagined as leaving the body as the last breath, hence maybe the sigh.
     
    Last edited:

    Karen123456

    Senior Member
    Malaysia English
    The 'ghost' here is the soul or spirit, and 'giving up the ghost', letting go the spirit, is a common expression meaning 'dying'. The spirit at the moment of death is sometimes imagined as leaving the body as the last breath, hence maybe the sigh.
    Thanks, Michael.

    giving up the ghost with a sigh that sounded positively happy,

    Does 'a sigh that sounded positively happy' mean that she sighed happily because her son had been filial and looked after her with tender care till the last moments'?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    "A sigh that sounded positively happy" means nothing more than it says.
    It is the following words, "for it was her own son ... ..." that tell us why she might have sounded positively happy, or at least content.
     

    Karen123456

    Senior Member
    Malaysia English
    "A sigh that sounded positively happy" means nothing more than it says.
    It is the following words, "for it was her own son ... ..." that tell us why she might have sounded positively happy, or at least content.
    Many thanks, Panjandrum, for confirming that 'a sigh that sounded positively happy' means that her son took tender care of her during her last illness and her final moments.

    What does 'last illness' mean? Does it mean she was often sick and last illness means that her last illness is the one which finally took her life away.

    Many thanks.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    A last illness is just that: the last illness that you ever have, because it ends in, or is followed by, your death. It does not indicate that you have been sick frequently; it merely indicates that you were sick at the end of your life. (And note that I am using the word "sick" in the American sense of the word, which is the same sense in which Chaucer uses it in the Prologue to the Canterbuy Tales: namely, a synonym for "ill", with no necessary suggestion of nausea.)
     
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