October 25, 2021
Ten years after losing her dad in a brutal murder, Jeni Stepien had him walk her down the aisle on her wedding day, or at least, a part of him living and beating in Arthur Thomas.
August 6, 2016 was a special day for Pittsburgh woman Jeni Stepien, not only because she married the love of her life, but she did so in the presence of someone special, her dad’s heart recipient.
In 2006, Jeni lost her dad after he was shot dead in Swissvale. As per his longtime wish, his family donated his organs to help save other lives.
Luckily, Arthur Thomas, a retired college advisor, who had been in need of a new heart for about sixteen years, received Michael’s, restoring him to perfect health.
Ten years later, he got the chance to repay the life-saving favor, by walking his donor’s daughter down the aisle in his stead on her wedding day.
Jeni admitted the family kept in touch with Thomas in the last ten years, exchanging flowers, gifts, and letters. They forged the relationship after he sent them a “thank you” note following a successful transplant. However, they never got to meet in person until the eve of her wedding.
The bride reportedly sent him a letter informing him of her upcoming wedding and asking if he was willing to do the honor of walking her down the aisle.
After receiving the go-ahead from his daughter, Thomas agreed and made the trip down to Pittsburgh from New Jersey alongside his wife. Their first meeting was emotional as Jeni and the rest of the family felt they were finally reuniting with their deceased patriarch.
The bride’s sister recalled, “It’s just like having my dad here and better because we get to share this story with people and other people see that organ donors do matter.”
Jeni couldn’t help breaking down in tears during the emotional meeting. On her wedding day, the entire family and guests gathered at the St. Ansalem Church in Swissvale to witness the memorable moment which was captured on video.
The clip showed Jeni clad in her wedding gown as she made the walk, accompanied by a smiling Thomas. The smiles radiating through them held no signs of the teary moment the two shared minutes prior, as an emotional Jeni felt her dad’s heartbeat once more.
Five years later, Jeni relived the beautiful moment by sharing it on Facebook as a tribute to her late dad. She accompanied the video with a heartfelt caption reflecting on the last five years and how grateful the family was to Thomas.
The woman also reflected on her dad’s untimely demise, which she considered unfair. She admitted that for years, she had yearned to shout from the rooftops. She added:
“My dad’s life was worth more than a gunshot and being left on the alleyway. I wanted to honor his choice, the life that came from his death. I have never forgotten the reason behind the miracle."
Jeni hoped by sharing her story; she would help more people see the importance of organ donations in availing others a second chance at life. That way, more would be encouraged to donate.
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