She’s the CARTographer; She Does CARTography!
She’s the CARTographer; She Does CARTography!
By Monette Benoit
Copyright by Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.
Arriving home Christmas evening, we received the call that a friend’s father had died. “The wake is tomorrow. Could you attend?” While my family checked funeral attire, I pulled the obituary for specifics. I had first met the deceased gentleman and family 25 years ago.
The next evening, we walked into the crowded funeral parlor. The main lobby split off into a separate room, which then extended to a smaller room. Immediate family members and the casket were in this smallest room.
We were hugged by people we had not seen in a long time. People approached saying, “Hey, I know you.” I giggled each time. I spoke to an “ex” who attended; we caught up on events, families. Soon the “ex” said, “I really should be going – you know.” I giggled. Yes, I knew.
The man who died had a wonderful family. His 92-year old mother was in the smallest room with his widow, children, grandchildren, friends and co-workers. People approached to view photographs, then spoke to the family to say good-bye before departing the wake. Alone for a moment, I sat in the chair by the door. (As court reporters we are trained to be master observers.)
Multiple mini-groups gathered. People were consoling family, politely bumping into others within this smallest room. Men and women held hands and offered tissues. My husband spoke to a small group. I saw a woman gesture –– and then stop her gesture with her other arm. I smiled. (My February 2007 column “CART, Signs and The Library,” describes a typical day in my world.) She looked familiar. I hoped I was not staring.
My husband called me over, and I stepped forward in one step. After introductions I said softly, “It’s been a while; I believe we know each other.” She laughed; again I saw a hand and wrist gesture.
I asked, “Are you a sign interpreter?” As we stood together, she turned her head. And when she turned, I saw her profile –– at the same angle I remember as I CARTed her work and projected realtime voiced text to large screens. We had worked multiple large events together.
I softly asked, “You’re the sign interpreter who drove the crappy car and lived in the country, aren’t you?”
She shrieked, “YES! I can’t believe you remember that! I did drive a crappy car. You’re the CARTographer!” She launched into my lungs; she threw herself at me in a long-lost friendship hug. She screamed into my right ear, “You’re Moe-net!”
While gripped in this realtime hug two feet from my left elbow was the open casket of the man whose funeral we were attending. I winced, frowned and looked to the adult children.
The person who invited us froze, then said to his grandmother, mother and the rest of his family: “It’s okay, everybody. They’re old friends who just found each other! That’s why they’re hugging, laughing.” A long silence, a pause, hung in the air. My head down, still gripped in this realtime hug, I peeked over to the 92-year old mother, widow, his family.
Soon, in unison, a collective sigh, “oh,” floated from each person. I heard, “They’re old friends” drift into the larger room and then lobby. Startled looks now were replaced with bright smiles. Large nods of approval were shared among this entire gathering.
My head still respectfully down, I looked to the interpreter softly saying, “You complained about your crappy car. I had to write the word ‘crappy’ on large screens a lot. I remember you.” (In 1993, I wrote “crap [delete space] y” and hoped initially it translated correctly. It did. Thank you, God.) She howled with laughter. Everyone, to include people, kneeling, praying at the casket, smiled.
I said softly, “This does seem surreal, doesn’t it?”
She said, “I never forgot you after all the jobs we worked together. Has it been 14 years? I always remember you as the CARTographer. You were the first.”
Still cautious of this event, where we were ––surrounded by large funeral wreaths, an open casket –– I smiled. She began introducing me to people saying, “She’s my friend, the CARTographer. She does CARTography.”
Each person smiled; some tilted their heads. I said not a word until the fourth introduction. I quietly asked, “May I?” Everyone nodded.
I softly said, “CART –– court reporting – like captioning –”
But the interpreter, “No, she’s the CARTographer. Trust me. I found my old friend. This is wonderful!” Head down, I watched the family. She and I exchanged private information and promised to keep in touch.
After the interpreter (ASL Master Level 5) departed, I stepped back to my chair and sat. I was watching the 92-year old mother. She sat alone. I stood, stepped to my right in one step; I put my hand on her shoulder. She smiled up at me. Slowly, I began to rub her shoulder, her back. Then I leaned over, and without a word, I hugged her.
She looked up to me saying, “I can’t see very well.” After a long pause with continued eye contact, I asked why not. She said, “I’ve cried so many tears today, my eyeglasses are filthy. I can’t see from all tears I’ve shed today.”
I raised my voice and called to her great-granddaughter, Kathy. Within seconds, I addressed the adult (whom I’ve known 18 years), “Here. These eyeglasses need to be washed. Do you want to do that for her?” Kathy took the glasses, ran off.
I looked back to the woman and softly said, “Oh, she’ll feel so good helping you. Now we just had to do that for her, didn’t we?” We both burst into loud laughter.
When the sparkling eyeglasses were returned, she beamed, “I can see now. I can see everyone and my son (in casket). Oh, I have lived to see so many miracles. Thank you. You’re the CARTographer, aren’t you?”
I looked to this sweet woman, “Yes, I am.” I added, “I’m also a court reporter.”
She said, “Oh, but this CARTography sounds so much more interesting. Thank you for coming to my son’s funeral and for bringing laughter. I’m so glad to meet you. And now I can see.”
The court reporter in me was proud and humbled to experience this event culminated by a 25-year friendship and my CART services 14 years ago into a special memory-moment (deaf phrase). That evening I chose to decline the opportunity to accurately define my CART description.
As I prepped to leave, a sibling I did not know approached to say good-bye. He looked tired and sad. He leaned on the doorframe saying to me, “I don’t have a brother any more.”
I gasped. Those were the exact words I said when I was told my brother was dead. (I had gasped and looked to my husband saying, “I don’t have a baby brother any more.” Kevin hated the word baby.)
Hesitating, I looked to the brother that evening. Everyone in the room had paused and waited. I slowly, softly – voice cracking, said, “The hardest part is learning to get past ‘I have’ to ‘I had.’ It’s the ‘a’ in each word,” and I paused.
As I paused, the brother of the deceased gentleman leaned over to rub my shoulder.
He said “I hear you’re the CARTographer. It’s like Camelot. Your work is CART-a-lot, right?”
I nodded while he rubbed my shoulders. When I glanced up, his eyes were red, moist; his mother’s eyes were crystal clear. She sparkled.
It is an honor to share what we do each day. I listened, laughed, hugged, rubbed shoulders and had my shoulders rubbed in consolation. That evening confirmed again how grateful I am for possibilities that appear each day, each evening within each gathering of people.
And now I ask you: “Can you see?”
Monette Benoit, B. B.A.,
Certified Court Reporter, Certified Reporting Instructor, Certified Program Evaluator, Paralegal, Columnist
Multiple-Title Author of Books & Test-Prep for the Court Reporting, CART/Captioning Industry
Blog: Monette’s Musings, Monette’s Musings
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