It all started with a touching letter. “Dear Tom, I’m the daughter of the man whose heart’s inside you,” wrote Jeni Stepien. “If you’re willing, would you walk me down the aisle?”
The bride was unable to hold back tears when she embraced Arthur Thomas for the first time on Friday and felt her father’s heart beating inside him.
“Can you feel it?” Thomas asked her in a video taken by Pittsburgh TV station KDKA.
This was the an emotional meeting for the entire Stepien family, because Jeni’s father, Michael Stepien, was murdered in 2006. His organs were donated, and Arthur Thomas received his heart — a lifesaving donation that he’d been waiting years for.
After getting permission from his daughter, Thomas and his wife traveled from New Jersey to Pittsburgh to do the honors. “First person I’ll ever be walking down the aisle,” he told KDKA.
Inviting Thomas brought joy to her entire family, Stepien told the Huffington Post.
“My mother was very touched by the idea also and thought it was a very appropriate gesture to honor my father,” she said.
And in sharing the story, Stepien hopes to encourage others to donate sign up to be an organ donor. You can sign up online at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services organ donation registry.