Molly Constantine almost passed unnoticed. An unremarkable woman to look at, Molly was of an indeterminate age. She might be fifty, she might be eighty it was hard to tell. Her clothes were also unremarkable, plain and serviceable, the hint of a heel on her shoes, the cut of her coat suggested quality without frivolity, no jewellery to speak of – no wedding ring and just plain gold hoops in her ears, small and sensible. Her terraced house was neat and tidy in appearance – it’s little garden was kept well and her windows and net curtains were always clean.
When you met Molly she was warm and friendly. She smiled and her blue eyes were honest and gentle. She was the sort of person who kept herself to herself, not in a snooty sort of way like that woman round the corner but in a self contained, self assured manner. If you knocked at her door then you would be welcomed into a nice, neat, slightly dated living room and offered a cup of tea but Molly didn’t really DO neighnouring. The endless in and out of each other’s houses which typified life in these terraced streets didn’t include Molly.
Every month Molly went away for a weekend. She took her sensible case and a taxi to the station where she caught a train. No one knew where she went, no one really ever asked. Her neighbours waved her off and asked on her return enquired if she’d had a nice time and she would smile and nod saying the journey was good or the weather was nice but nothing in the way of details. At first people were curious but as time passed her neighbours just accepted her absences as being as unremarkable as Molly herself.
Then Molly Constantine died.
Her neigbours were sad at her loss, each thinking they would go to the funeral as Molly had been very sweet when they were ill, bereaved, sad. In fact when they thought about it they remembered a book lent to pass a lonely day or two, a hot pie when they had come out of hospital that time, help when a carrier bag broke as they were trying to open their door, a bin taken out when forgotten. Yes, Molly had been a sweet woman.
When they tuned up at her funeral, they were amazed. The church was packed to capacity. People who had known each other for years were surprised to find that they both knew Molly. “What are you doing here?” they asked each other, only to find that Molly had fetched shopping, tidied a garden, helped write a letter, cooked a meal, or made a cup of tea for someone who was sad or weary. For years Molly had carried out these small acts of kindness which no one really noticed. As people chatted they started to see the whole picture. When the minister stood up to speak they were even more surprised.
Molly had been a member of the French Resistance during the war. Brought up in Jersey, Molly’s French was fluent and she was ideal as a candidate for spying against the occupying forces in France in World War 2. She ran a unit responsible for helping allied troops escape capture. She lived a dangerous life of secrecy and deception and only evaded capture herself by hiding a cattle wagon as they passed through enemy checkpoints. Her neighbours were astounded – they had absolutely no idea. The eulogy was given by a very handsome man who explained that the old soldiers at the home Molly visited every month would miss her. Her patience in sitting with them and chatting, her shared understanding of the horror of their experiences meant that they had come to love Molly and would miss her wonderful singing. Her neighbours had no idea that she sang.
As the funeral ended and all these slightly amazed people left the church a recording was playing
“There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover”
If they had turned as they left they may have been forgiven for thinking a bird had accidentally flown into the church but if they had listened closely they would have heard the sound of an angel stretching their new wings.