Shattered: Reclaiming a Life Torn Apart by Violence

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9780743444569: Shattered: Reclaiming a Life Torn Apart by Violence
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In April 1998, Debra Puglisi Sharp -- wife, nurse, and mother of teenage twins -- was tending the roses in her garden when a factory worker with a cocaine habit slipped in through an open door and waited for her to come in. Nino, her husband of twenty-five years, got in the way and was shot. The man then attacked and raped Debra, placed her in the trunk of his car, and drove away. Kept hog-tied in her abductor's house, Debra finally learned of her husband's murder from a newscast on a radio that the man blared to muffle her screams while he was out. After five excruciating days, Debra's mounting rage at her captor -- and the wrenching thought of her children burying their father alone -- gave her the courage and strength she desperately needed. She loosened her ties, groped her way to the phone...and dialed 911.
Shattered is an indelible portrait of hope, determination, and the agonizing journey back to life. Struggling to heal from her horrendous ordeal and the devastating loss of her husband, Debra also had to endure an agonizing court trial, the raw grief of her children, and her own crippling fear. But through her work in hospice care and as an advocate for victims of violence and trauma, she has slowly discovered the measure of her own strength. A compelling survival story -- tragic and ultimately heroic -- Shattered represents one woman's attempts to make sense of a senseless crime.

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About the Author:

Debra Puglisi Sharp has appeared on Oprah, 20/20, The John Walsh Show, and other national and regional talk shows. Now remarried, and having resumed her nursing career and work in victim advocacy, she lives in Delaware.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

Why I saved the tape I can't begin to say, so I decide it must have saved itself for me.

As I scoured the house for a blank audiocassette, I found it -- unmarked, tossed in an old shopping bag from some long-ago Christmas. It's part of the limitless stuff you take when you move from one house to another, stuff that may end up lost or discarded or simply relegated to a cardboard box in a dusty corner, under tons of other stuff.

The tape player is on a low shelf under the TV. I pop in the tape and push play, and the gooseflesh rises up on my arms. It's Nino. He's talking on what must be an old answering machine tape from years ago -- way back in 1993, maybe '94. Amazing that this is still around.

My breath stops in my throat. I sink to my knees, then sit cross-legged on the floor by the tape player. I put my head down and listen hard, feeling the vibrations of the words as they come out of the speaker. When I turn up the volume, it's like he's speaking right into my ear.

Nino.

As far as I can tell, it's a business call. That's how I date it -- 1993. It must have been recorded then, because shortly afterward Nino switched from bulk paper sales to a career in funeral planning.

He speaks down low -- or maybe it's the tape quality -- so I can't hear a lot of the words. There's something in there about C-fold towels and rolls of waxed paper and paper bags by the gross and how he can get a better discount for quantity.

Back then he worked for Advance Paper and Chemical of Wilmington, and he sold all these janitorial products to big industrial firms as well as to small companies and mom-and-pops. He was good at it, made a good living for the time, and it was all due to his gregarious nature. Nino had an innate friendliness that just drew people to him and him to them. He was a natural salesman who leaned hard on his Italianness and that kind of blunt, humor-filled haggling to get people's respect and trust. It worked.

Of course, like most Italians, he especially loved selling to places where he could grab a bite to eat: restaurants, pizza places, sub shops. Those were his favorite stops, and he'd gladly find an excuse to linger for a while during the workday at some little roadside deli and order the biggest, sloppiest sub going, with lots of provolone and prosciutto and peppers and oil. Sometimes he'd take one wrapped for the road and share it with me when he got home. The man loved to eat: meat and potatoes, fried baloney sandwiches, and heaps and heaps of pasta.

It was an old joke between us. Nino had the vanity of a man who had always been attractive. In middle age, he watched with dismay as his waistline slowly expanded, but he could never curb that big appetite. And me, no matter what or how much I ate, I could never get up past 118 pounds.

Whatever he's talking about on the scratchy old tape -- the this-and-that of business or a detail about a pending deal -- the thrill for me is simply hearing his voice, a voice I haven't heard in more than a thousand days.

···

There was a time I would have been unnerved by this sudden encounter with my late husband. I might have felt angry or desolate. I might have fallen back into the dark, closed-in place I went to when he first died. Today, I'm amazed to realize that this feels only good: a moment of reunion, warm, like an unexpected clasp of hands. I catch a glimpse of myself in the glass door of the stereo cabinet, and I'm smiling.

I can't talk back to him, can't ask him the questions I've yearned to ask or tell him the things I think he'd like to know about our lives since he left us. I think he knows anyway. Somehow, putting one foot determinedly in front of the other, we've all of us -- me and the kids -- come through it. We've all learned how to be glad again, unself-consciously glad, and our thoughts of him are mostly good.

Hi, Nino, I tell him in my mind. I've been thinking about you so much. You are so welcome here.

On the tape, too, is a message from my mom.

"Hi, Debbie," she says. Her voice, always matter-of-fact, sounds softer, like it's wrapped in gauze. "I just wanted to wish you a happy Nurses Day...."

I want to catch every sound, every pause and intake of breath. Unbelievable. How long has it been?

"Happy Nurses Day."

That was so like Mom, to notice a made-up holiday on the calendar and call just to acknowledge it. She was unerringly thoughtful. Not effusive and never sentimental, just thoughtful and nice.

Natalie Matilda Purse (divorced from my dad, she took back her maiden name after Darlene, the youngest of us, turned twenty-one, and she always called herself "Gnat," like the little bug) was not one to spend hours on the phone. Once she said what needed to be said, it was, "Well, I've got to hang up now." And off she'd go back to her treasured solitude, with her cats and her teapot and her crossword puzzles.

But she never lost touch with her kids, with Robert or Gary, with Darlene or with me. In a day or two she'd find a reason to call again, and we'd exchange the few words that were necessary to stay close and caught up.

We've missed both of you, I think, hoping my thoughts carry across from the place I am to the place -- if it is a place -- they now occupy. Nino, Mom, we never imagined we could miss you as long and as hard as we have. Nor did we know that one day it would all be okay again. We never thought it could.

Well, Mom, it's okay. Really okay for the first time in a long while.

Nino, the twins are doing so much better. You'd be proud to see them as they evolve out of that college kid thing into accomplished, responsible adults: Melissa with a good job at a bank, happy and engaged (yes, to Jeremy -- it's lasted), Michael working hard and studying and feeling a whole lot better.

They're healing up, too, from all that happened. I know it would be incredibly important to you to know that. We're through the worst of it, out of the keenest part of the sorrow and into the life that comes after.

Nino and I were married almost twenty-five years and were in fact just days from our silver anniversary when he died. We'd planned no big party; that was out of the question with both the kids in college. And we'd reluctantly decided that the second honeymoon we planned years and years ago -- a twenty-fifth anniversary trip to Hawaii -- would have to wait till the next big milestone ("Maybe the thirtieth," said Nino).

I managed to be okay with the change in plans, and Nino did come up with a great consolation prize: a pair of antique diamond earrings. The fact that he bought them secondhand from a coworker dimmed their luster a little bit, but really, they were gorgeous.

But overall, and secretly, I was disappointed. I'm the kind of person who would have said, Ah, to hell with it, let's rent a hall and hire a great Italian caterer and invite all our friends from Maryland and Jersey and Delaware. Let's get a DJ and bring all Nino's musician pals to play, too. Let's drink and dance, eat Chesapeake Bay crabs and baked ziti and roast beef sandwiches, and we'll worry about the cost later. You only live once.

I still mourn him, Nino, my husband, Michael and Melissa's father. But now mourning has a kinder face, an almost companionable nature. The fact that I can love the sound of my late husband's voice, feeling comforted by it rather than saddened, means I've turned a corner in the long, lingering good-bye that is grieving.

Once it was almost impossible for me to believe that the acute, relentless yearning that was my grief for Nino would ever let up. Somehow it has, though. Time has blunted the most painful edges. I've started to experience my memories as friendly little prompts that remind me of all the things I loved about my husband, without making me ache in that bad old way.

I went through this first with Mom. She died way too soon, at sixty-five. It had taken us the better part of a lifetime to grow as close as we both wanted to be, to get past the mother-daughter turmoils and become dear friends. And just as I was starting to love that and count on it, she was gone. Heart failure. I was bereft. Our best conversation had just begun.

The hurt came in waves, as sharply physical as the pain of childbirth, with the same sort of ebb and flow. For a while, I'd be okay. She was gone, I was coping, like everybody eventually does. Then it would well up again, a sadness so big I'd want to physically outrun it.

It took months, maybe a year before it started to ease up. I came to think of the experience as sorrowing. Not a noun. A verb. Sorrowing. It was an active thing, a thing I had to do and work at. On rough days I'd feel like the sailor on choppy waters who has to just grip the sides and hold on. I'd literally tell myself, Debbie, come on. This thing has a curve. It goes up, it hurts, it hurts, then you cry, then you crash down, and then it's calm for a while. Ride it out, girl.

In time, as the waves started to recede, I started to remember Mom as she deserved to be remembered: not with pain but with gratitude. For her grace and loyalty, her intelligence and independence, her pungent honesty, and her quiet devotion to us.

This isn't anything you learn to do better the second time. With Nino's death in April 1998, grief came around again; again, it was unexpected. But this grief was all new; this was hurricanes and torrents that propelled Melissa and Michael and me to places I never imagined we'd have to go.

My husband, my friend, companion, lover, and partner of twenty-five years, was murdered, shot down by the man who came to our house looking for me.

Well, he was not looking specifically for me, Debbie, at least not until he saw me in my yard that spring day. He was looking for a woman, any woman or girl he deemed attractive. He was looking for someone to savage and rape and, if necessary, to kill.

You'd think such a crime would take great planning, great cunning and secretiveness. No. He just drove around until he found someone -- me. He started with the neighborhoods near his home in Bear, Delaware, then wandered into Newark, about five mil...

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2004. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In April 1998, Debra Puglisi Sharp -- wife, nurse, and mother of teenage twins -- was tending the roses in her garden when a factory worker with a cocaine habit slipped in through an open door and waited for her to come in. Nino, her husband of twenty-five years, got in the way and was shot. The man then attacked and raped Debra, placed her in the trunk of his car, and drove away. Kept hog-tied in her abductor s house, Debra finally learned of her husband s murder from a newscast on a radio that the man blared to muffle her screams while he was out. After five excruciating days, Debra s mounting rage at her captor -- and the wrenching thought of her children burying their father alone -- gave her the courage and strength she desperately needed. She loosened her ties, groped her way to the phone.and dialed 911. Shattered is an indelible portrait of hope, determination, and the agonizing journey back to life. Struggling to heal from her horrendous ordeal and the devastating loss of her husband, Debra also had to endure an agonizing court trial, the raw grief of her children, and her own crippling fear. But through her work in hospice care and as an advocate for victims of violence and trauma, she has slowly discovered the measure of her own strength. A compelling survival story -- tragic and ultimately heroic -- Shattered represents one woman s attempts to make sense of a senseless crime. Seller Inventory # BZV9780743444569

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2004. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In April 1998, Debra Puglisi Sharp -- wife, nurse, and mother of teenage twins -- was tending the roses in her garden when a factory worker with a cocaine habit slipped in through an open door and waited for her to come in. Nino, her husband of twenty-five years, got in the way and was shot. The man then attacked and raped Debra, placed her in the trunk of his car, and drove away. Kept hog-tied in her abductor s house, Debra finally learned of her husband s murder from a newscast on a radio that the man blared to muffle her screams while he was out. After five excruciating days, Debra s mounting rage at her captor -- and the wrenching thought of her children burying their father alone -- gave her the courage and strength she desperately needed. She loosened her ties, groped her way to the phone.and dialed 911. Shattered is an indelible portrait of hope, determination, and the agonizing journey back to life. Struggling to heal from her horrendous ordeal and the devastating loss of her husband, Debra also had to endure an agonizing court trial, the raw grief of her children, and her own crippling fear. But through her work in hospice care and as an advocate for victims of violence and trauma, she has slowly discovered the measure of her own strength. A compelling survival story -- tragic and ultimately heroic -- Shattered represents one woman s attempts to make sense of a senseless crime. Seller Inventory # AAC9780743444569

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