A woman in Pennsylvania just got the best wedding present ever.
Jeni Stepien’s father – Michael Stepien was murdered in 2006 during a robbery. He was walking home from the restaurant where he worked as a head chef. He deviated from his normal pathway home and was shot in the head by 16-year-old Leslie Brown. While he was on life support, one of his final wishes was that his organs be donated to people who would benefit from them. His family accepted his decision and 48 hours later – his heart and kidneys were donated to two people.
One of those fortunate people was 72-year-old Arthur Thomas a.k.a Tom. He was dying from congestive heart failure and was on the waiting list for 16 years already for a transplant. He was extremely grateful to be the recipient of Michael’s heart but empathized with the pain of his family, so he decided to write them a thank-you letter on Christmas day of that same year.
When Jeni’s mother replied back, they kept in contact and formed a 10-year long friendship through letters, phone calls and e-mails.
Eventually, Jeni got engaged to the man of her dreams but constantly wondered who will give her away since her father was no longer here.
˝As soon as I got engaged, I thought, But who will walk me down the aisle?˝ she said.
Then, a thought clicked in her head.
“I thought instantly of Tom, and how special and meaningful it would be to be able to bring everything full circle for my mom and sister, as well — and for Tom”.
Jeni wrote him a letter kindly asking him if he would attend her wedding and take on the role of her father. Thomas gladly accepted.
He traveled From New Jersey to Pittsburgh to meet Jeni and her family for the first time.
She was ecstatic yet nervous to finally meet the man who’s life was saved by the generosity of her father Michael.
“Tom has a presence about him, like my father did when he was in the room. Everyone wants to be near those people, and likes them instantly” Jeni told Upworthy.
She said: “And I was just thinking, ‘My dad is here with us, and this man is here with us because of us”, reports the New York Times.
The wedding took place in Swissvale at St Anselm Church. Tom walked the happy Jeni down the aisle and his presence alone was instantly a heart warmer.
”Just hugging him made me feel like I was close to my dad again. On this day it was perfect. It was what I needed.’ recalls Michelle – Jeni’s sister.
He said: “I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad” reports the New York Times.
“That’s her father’s heart beating”.