Bride Gets Walked Down Aisle By Man Who Received Transplant Of Her Dad's Heart
Happy Monday, everyone!
I know, I know... there's nothing "happy" about Monday. You're still kind of hungover, you've got residual Sunday scaries from yesterday and you still have an entire week ahead of you. Things are not exactly ideal.
But let me try to do my part in brightening your day, even if it's just a tiny little bit, with this wedding story that will make you feel literally everything.
Jeni Stepien's father was killed about 10 years ago in September 2006. Michael Stepien, 53, was walking through an alleyway on his way home from his job as head chef at a restaurant when a 16-year-old robbed him at gun point. He was shot in the head point blank, and his murderer is now serving 40 years to life in prison, according to news reports.
As it became increasingly clear that her father was losing in the fight for his life, Jeni's family decided to "accept the inevitable" and donate his organs to the Center for Organ Recovery & Education.
Michael Stepien's heart was donated to a man named Arthur Thomas, 72, when Thomas was just within days of dying. The organization allows donor families to keep in touch with one another after the transplant takes place, so the Stepiens have actually been able to keep in touch with Thomas through letters and emails.
That being said, the Pennsylvania-based Stepiens never actually met the New Jersey-based Thomas in person until this past October.
What was the occasion? Well, 33-year-old Jen had just become engaged to 34-year-old Paul Maenner.
“One of my first thoughts in that following week was, 'Who will walk me down the aisle?' ” Stepien recounts to the New York Times. “I was thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, it would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there.' ”
With her fiancé's encouragement, Jen wrote to Mr. Thomas (the family calls him Tom) asking if he would want to walk her down the aisle. He said yes.
It's a bittersweet wedding story a decade in the making: Nearly 10 years after Jeni Stepien's father was killed, the man who received her father's donated heart traveled from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to walk her down the aisle.
You can see the beautiful, magical, heart warming event right here for yourself:
Citations: Bride Is Walked Down Aisle by the Man Who Got Her Father's Donated Heart (New York Times), Convicted killer serving life without parole re-sentenced in 2006 Swissvale robbery (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)