When a Pennsylvania bride walked down the aisle during her weekend wedding in Pittsburgh, it was not her father who gave her away to the groom.
Jeni Stepien’s father Michael was killed in 2006.
On the eve of Stepien’s wedding, she met for the first time the man who’s now living with her father’s heart. A meeting filled with emotion for the bride and the entire Stepien family.
After Michael Stepien died, his organs were donated, including a heart that Arthur Thomas had been waiting 16 years to receive.
On Friday, the day before the wedding, Jeni Stepien felt her father’s heart beat for the first time in 10 years.
“I am so excited. It’s like the whole family’s here now. It’s like everybody’s here,” she said.
Thomas and his wife traveled to Pittsburgh from New Jersey to be there for Stepien’s big day. Relatives and friends gathered at Saint Anselm Church in Swissvale where the ceremony took place.
“We’ve been talking to him and writing letters and calling and receiving flowers and sending gifts for the past 10 years and now it’s finally here,” the bride said.
“Just hugging him made me feel like I was close to my dad again, which on this day was perfect. It was what I needed,” said sister of the bride, Michelle Stepien.
But there’s even more to this special meeting.
“Jeni wrote me a letter. And she said, ‘Tom, I’m the daughter of the man whose heart’s inside you, and I’m gonna get married on August 6th. One further thing if you’re willing, would you walk me down the aisle?'” Thomas said.
Stepien agreed, and Thomas went to the wedding.
“It’s just like having my dad here and just better because we get to share this story with other people and you know other people see that organ donors do matter,” the newlywed said.