‘A whirlwind of emotions’

Couple act quickly to grant dying wish of groom’s mother

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For most women, the thought of preparing for and executing a wedding in a little over 12 hours might be met with severe fits of anxiety. But that’s exactly what Hilary Patterson Veltri pulled off when she married Matthew Veltri March 1. It wasn’t the premise of some campy new reality show, but rather an incredible display of love for her new mother-in-law.


When Hilary, 22, was engaged to Matthew, 39, last year, the Washington couple originally planned to wed in 2014. But when Matthew’s mother, Deby Veltri, suffered a return of her cancer, that schedule went out the window.


Given little more than a month to live, Deby Veltri recently was moved to a suite at the Donnell House, the hospice center run by the Washington Health System. When she took a turn for the worse, it became clear the couple’s wedding plans would have to change.


“I couldn’t imagine her not being there,” Hilary said. “If it were one of my parents, we would’ve been doing the exact same thing. Family is the most important thing to us.”


Heavy medication prescribed to battle Deby Veltri’s severe pain left her sleeping for days on end. So, when Matthew’s sister Michele Mercer called and said their mother was up and about, the family decided to pounce on the opportunity.


“She had been sleeping for four or five days,” Mercer said. “My mother had wanted to see the wedding before she passed, so when she woke up Thursday feeling great I called and said, ‘If you’re planning on doing this, I think you should do it now.’”


The couple woke up about 9 a.m. and had to make a split-second decision.


“I knew she was having a good day,” Hilary Veltri said. “We only had limited time left, so when we woke up we said, ‘We might just be able to do this thing.’”


Mercer contacted Donnell House to request use of the facility’s grand room. After that, the race was on. There were nails to be done, makeup to be applied, eyebrows to be waxed and hair to be done. A friend put together the bouquet at Shop ’n Save, and an out-of-town bridesmaid resorted to shaving her legs at a fast-food restaurant during an impromptu road trip. Hilary found a white prom dress at the mall, and her aunt put together a veil at Michael’s craft store using the shop’s glue gun.


“It was a whirlwind of emotions,” Hilary said. “We freaked out for a little bit, but we pulled it together. It was worth it because this is what we’d been waiting for.”


For the staff at Donnell House, the wedding was a touching, welcome change of routine.


“We all thought it was a wonderful gesture of love that these young people did this for their mother,” said Sally Stitt, executive director of hospice care for Washington Health System. “That kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. We all had tears in our eyes, too.”


The staff contributed to the short-notice wedding, too. When a nurse found out the small party had no rice to throw at the bride, workers gathered up paper clippings from the paper-hole puncher to use as confetti.


Family members said for all the frantic efforts, the wedding was beautiful. With no rehearsal, it also was pulled off with relative ease.


Matt Veltri said the most important thing gained from the experience was knowing that his mother had the chance to see the last of her three children married.


“It was the best day, health-wise, my mother had in months,” Veltri said. “She was up and smiling just like before she was sick. She was even cracking jokes – Hilary was running late and she said, ‘She better hurry up. Doesn’t she know I don’t have much time left?’”


Even though it was pulled off in a hurry, Hilary Veltri said it was a ceremony she’ll never forget.


“People said it was a sacrifice, but it wasn’t,” Hilary said. “I had my dream wedding, it just wasn’t the dream I had originally imagined. There were so many emotions surrounding everything that day, but completely satisfied is the one I’m left with.”


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