Prepare to Ugly Cry, Because This Bride Walked Down the Aisle with the Man who Got Her Father’s Heart

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Wedding-Rings-WeddingTen years ago, 23-year-old Jeni Stepien’s beloved father, chef Michael Stepien, was murdered in a robbery while walking home from work. It was a devastating loss that his family will never really recover from. But this week Stepien got married, and she walked down the aisle holding the hand of the man who received Michael Stepien’s donated heart.

According to the New York Times, Michael Stepien’s family decided to donate his organs in the hope of saving other people’s lives, and they did just that. Stepien’s heart went to a New Jersey man named Arthur Thomas, who had four children of his own and who was lying on his death bed when the news came that there was a heart for him.

10 years later, Arthur Thomas is alive and well thanks to the generosity of Stepien and his family. Thomas exchanged letters with Michael Stepien’s widow, Bernice, and they kept in touch by mail, but did not meet in person.

This year, Jeni Stepien got engaged, and it was a bittersweet experience to know that her father would not be there for her wedding.

“One of my first thoughts in that following week was, ‘Who will walk me down the aisle?’” Jeni Stepien said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, it would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there.’ ”

Jeni asked Thomas if he’d walk her down the aisle, and he agreed, though he asked his own daughter first if she would be OK with it. His daughter of course was like, yes, that’s beautiful and you have to do it.

Thomas traveled from New Jersey to Pittsburgh for the wedding, and he and Jeni met the day before the ceremony. He suggested that she walk down the aisle holding his wrist, because that was where she’d be able to feel his pulse the strongest and know that was her dad’s heart beating in there.

“I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad,” Thomas said. “That’s her father’s heart beating.”

Jeni’s loss was terrible, but she got to walk down the aisle feeling her father’s heartbeat, and that’s sad and wonderful at the same time.

Also, if you haven’t already, please consider becoming an organ donor like Jeni Stepien’s father. I know nobody likes to think about dying, but death comes for us all in the end, and if donating our no-longer-being-used organs can save lives, we should do so.