• Joseph F. Berenato

Local author holds book signing


Local author Carl “Pepper” Cappuccio, right, posed with Graycewyngs Gardens & Interiors owner Jennifer Jones-Rodriguez during his book signing at that establishment on June 12. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

On June 12, Carl “Pepper” Cappuccio held a book signing at Graycewyngs Gardens & Interiors to celebrate the release of his work Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion through Christian Faith Publishing, Inc.


According to the description from the publisher, the author is responsible for guiding dying patients “through that last journey as well as providing emotional support and comfort for the patient’s loved ones.”


“Pepper takes the reader on his journey from his own home to that of the patients. He describes in detail what he is thinking and feeling along the way. Once in the home, Pepper weaves a story, using sights, sounds and smells, to describe the surroundings as he treats each patient’s symptoms and allow them a peaceful death. Once the patient has passed, he bathes them in ‘warm water’ as a gentle gesture of dignity and respect before they are taken away for final arrangements. Each of these tales had a spiritual connectedness between Pepper and the loved ones of each patient. Together, they experience a catharsis as the loved ones begin their journey of grief,” the description states.


Cappuccio, a 1977 graduate of Hammonton High School, attended the Helene Fuld College of Nursing and earned his bachelor’s degree from Rowan University. Now a nurse with Samaritan Hospice, Cappuccio said that he comes from “a family of many nurses.”


“All three of my sisters are nurses; two of them teach at colleges now. I became a nurse about 20 years ago, working med/surg. It wasn’t until my mother became sick with cancer that I was introduced to hospice care. Once my mother was dying, and I was introduced to that whole concept of that kind of care, I said, ‘This is the kind of nursing that I need to do,’” Cappuccio said.


Cappuccio said that, during his 10 years as a hospice nurse, he has been moved and inspired “by the families and how they react to death, and how we impact them with the care with we do.”


Pepper Cappuccio's book, Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion. (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s very inspirational. I know it’s a sad event for them, but we know going in what’s going to happen, and we take care of them during the last stage of life. My job as a visiting nurse usually entails symptom management and, oftentimes, death—the death of patients, whether it’s right at the time of death or shortly thereafter. That was the inspiration for the book,” Cappuccio said.


Cappuccio said that Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion is a compilation of approximately 20 vignettes.


“I get the call, and I have to go see the patient, and I take the reader on a ride with me to that event. The basis of each story, the nuances of each chapter, are about the disease, the family, the death of course, and then what I do immediately thereafter to comfort the patient. I talk to the families, we talk about how their lives were—the patient—then we talk about their culture, religious beliefs, etc. It incorporates all of that in each chapter,” Cappuccio said.


All of the stories, Cappuccio said, are true.


“I changed all of the names and locations for privacy reasons, but the stories themselves are accurate and true. The disease process and what happened is true ... The ones in the book, the center chapter is my mother. It’s paying homage to her. Each story has a coincidental relationship to me, the little nuances and things that you see. The last chapter is the most uncanny event to happen to me, in relation to me and the book itself,” Cappuccio said.


Cappuccio said that hospice care has become more prevalent during his time as a nurse.


“People are dying at home and not in the hospital ... They didn’t have a paradigm to work with at home, and now we do. It seems like, in the hospital, people do not die as comfortable a death as we afford them at home. As a nurse, we get a lot more time for the bedside manner, with more TLC and personal care. We can sit and talk to the family. That’s in the book; in each chapter, they talk about how long they were married, how long were you together, do you have kids? All the kinds of things that you don’t get in the hospital,” Cappuccio said.


Though the work may be emotionally taxing, Cappuccio said that he couldn’t picture himself in any other profession.


“The impact that I have on patients and their families has been a gift to me. If I didn’t have to make money, I would do this job for free ... At Samaritan, that’s our CEO’s mantra: always remember the impact that you’re having on people. That’s the reward. It’s remarkable. I can see people five years later, and they’ll remember the whole thing, and are absolutely appreciative and thankful. It brought them comfort,” Cappuccio said.


Cappuccio noted that, though this is his first book, it has been met with positive feedback.


“I think the topic is very interesting to people, because everyone goes through this ... It’s being so well-received that I’m just going to write another book of the same type. There’s plenty of material, unfortunately, to keep writing,” Cappuccio said.


Sue Milazzo (left) has her copy of Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion signed by author Carl “Pepper” Cappuccio (right). (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Cappuccio said that Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion contains material and themes to which everyone can relate.


“They all find comfort in it. I don’t know if it’s realizing that we all go through this, or the fact that I’m able to tie the pieces together. In reality, the safest and most effective way to begin the grief process is to live your life’s experiences with the person who just passed away. That’s in every single chapter, and the end,” Cappuccio said.


That relatability, Cappuccio said, is what prompted Graycewyngs owner Jennifer Jones-Rodriguez to contact him.


“I have a neighbor who lives right next door to Jennifer, who showed her the book. She read the book and absolutely adored the book, reached out to me and said that it was a great. I went to the store, and she asked if I wanted to have a book signing, so I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’” Cappuccio said.


Jones-Rodriguez concurred.


“When I got to the end, I was sobbing. I knew this was a book that everybody had to read. It tells the perspective of someone you never think about: the nurse. They have to deal with death, too,” Jones-Rodriguez said.


Warm Water: The Last Act of Compassion is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, as well as through the author’s website at peppercappuccio.com.