This Bride’s Father Died, But The Man Who Got His Heart In A Transplant Walked Her Down The Aisle

Life Writer

It’s almost every woman’s dream to have her father walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. Unfortunately, Jeni Stepien’s dad was killed a decade before she was set to say “I Do” to the love of her life. But thanks to him being an organ donor, Jeni’s dad wasn’t just at the wedding in spirit, his heart was also present.

Michael Stepien was shot and killed in 2006 by a 16-year-old who robbed the Pennsylvania restaurant chef while on his way home from work. Before dying at the hospital, Stepien made the decision to have his organs donated via the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, an organization that allows donor families and transplant recipients to stay in contact.

Stepien passed away and his heart was given to Arthur Thomas who was just days away from dying after suffering from a life-threatening type of heart arrhythmia for 16 years. “In order to get to the top of the transplant list, you have to be really hurting,” Thomas explained in an interview with the New York Times. “Once I had my transplant, I, of course, decided I would write a thank-you to the family.” That thank you letter led to monthly phone calls, emails, and letters. Yet, despite all of that communicating, Jeni never actually met the New Jersey man who had her father’s heart. Not until a day before her wedding.

“One of my first thoughts in that following week [after my engagement] was, ‘Who will walk me down the aisle?’ ” Jeni said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, it would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there.’” After a little push from her fiancé, Jeni asked Thomas to walk her down the aisle, a request he obliged after speaking to his own daughter who called it a wonderful idea.

Jeni got her wish when Thomas walked her down the aisle on Friday in a ceremony that took place just three blocks where her father was killed. “I thought [walking her] would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad,” Thomas said. “That’s her father’s heart beating.”

Is it dusty in here?

(Via New York Times)

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