In possibly the sweetest act ever, a bride in Pennsylvania had the recipient of her father’s heart walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. Cue the tears.
Jeni Stepien’s dad, Michael Stepien, was fatally injured ten years ago in a robbery and after a day on life support the family had to make the unfortunate decision that it was time and donate his organs. The recipient of his heart was Arthur Thomas, who had been waiting 16 years for a new heart and would have died within 48 hours were it not for this one.
The next Christmas, Thomas wrote to the Stepiens to thank them for the role they played in saving his life. They kept in contact through letters for years but never met in person until Jeni asked Thomas to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. How can you refuse an offer like that?
‘When my fiancé proposed, one of the first things I thought of was ‘but who will walk me down the aisle?’ I could think of nobody more meaningful than Tom,’ Jeni told the Huffinton Post, ‘My fiancé suggested I write him a letter; that way Tom would feel in no way obligated or pressured by my request.’ Of course, he called shortly after and accepted her offer. They met for the first time the Friday before the wedding in what turned into a very tearful and beautiful moment.
Thomas walked the bride down the aisle the next day and Jeni had nothing but wonderful things to say about the entire affair. With a piece of her father, the man he saved and the man who was ‘hand picked’ for her, the wedding was perfect.
Jeni hopes that a message people can take away from her story is that organ donors matter. Though the family lost a dear husband and father, they could see Thomas embrace a second chance at life and watch him thrive in a way that would be impossible without Michael’s heart. Meeting Thomas was also helpful to the family’s healing process and provided closure for Jeni’s mother and sister. Jeni said ‘He is such a gracious and kind-hearted man. You could tell he was so thankful for his life, and that radiated from him.’