Photo | Lauren Demby
While most brides dream of having their father walk them down the aisle, sadly for Jeni, it wasn’t possible – her father Michael Stepien passed away over ten years previously.
However, the Pennsylvania native was determined to have him be part of her big day, so she invited the man who received his donated heart to walk her down the aisle.
Arthur Thomas, 72, was within days of dying from ventricular tachycardia when he received news that he was to get a new heart.
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After the operation, he wrote to the Stepien family, thanking them for saving his life, and the two families kept in touch but never met.
That all changed when Jeni became engaged to Paul in October last year. She told The New York Times, “One of my first thoughts in that following week was, ‘Who will walk me down the aisle?’ ” Ms. Stepien said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, it would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there.’ ”
So she wrote to Arthur, who first asked his daughter if she would mind, to which she replied it was a “wonderful idea”.
He said, “I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad. That’s her father’s heart beating.
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“I felt wonderful about bringing her dad’s heart to Pittsburgh. If I had to, I would’ve walked.”
The wedding took place in the church where Jeni’s parents got married, and the bride walked down the aisle to Arthur’s arm, and on arriving at the altar touched his chest to feel close to her dad.
Arthur and his wife then enjoyed the rest of the wedding with other guests, and the two families are now planning their next get-together.
Watch a snippet of the emotional reunion and walk down the aisle below: