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A beaming bride was taken down the aisle to the love of her life by a very special man, because of whom, the bride’s late father’s heart was there with her. Jeni Stepian, a 33-year-old primary school teacher was given away by the man who received her father’s heart a decade ago.

Image Source: Lauren Demby/Lauren Renee Designs

In 2006, Jeni’s father Michael Stepian, who was a head chef at a restaurant, was coming back home from work, when a teenager robbed him at gunpoint and shot him in the head. The convict, Leslie L. Brown is now serving his punishment of staying in the prison for 40 years. Jeni’s father was dying in the hospital, when the family decided to accept the inevitable and contacted an organization named Centre for Organ Recovery and Education, so that they could donate Mr. Stepian’s organs.

Arthur Thomas was the man, who received Mr. Michael’s heart. Mr. Thomas was given the diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia around 16 years before the transplant. The father of four was within days of dying when the doctors said that they had found a heart. After receiving the Mr. Thomas wrote a thank you letter to the Stepian family for saving his life and since then, the two families have been in touch through monthly phone calls, letters, e-mails and cards and flowers during the festive season. Mr. Thomas and Jeni’s mother have always sometimes shared parenting tips.

The two families had never thought of meeting till Jeni got engaged to Paul Maenner. For a week after the engagement, Jeni kept thinking who would walk her down the aisle, and then Paul suggested that Mr. Thomas could be contacted. Jeni thought it would be really great if a physical part of her father could be there at the wedding and so, she wrote to Mr. Thomas, whom the Stepian family lovingly calls Tom. She asked if he could walk her down the aisle, to which he said yes, but also said that he would first like to run the proposition to his 30-year-old daughter, Jackie. When Mr. Thomas told all this to his daughter, she thought it to be a great idea and said that he should be practicing the art of walk down the aisle holding a bride’s hand.

Tom and his wife Nancy traveled from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to be a part of the wedding which took place on 6 August. Jeni met Tom a day before the wedding and to make her father’s presence felt near her, Tom suggested that Jeni put her hand on his wrist to feel the pulse and feel how strongly her father’s heart was beating.
On the day of the wedding, Jeni happily entered the church in Swissvale with Tom by her side. It was the same church where her parents had married, and now she was also to start her new life in the presence of her family and her father’s heart. When they reached the altar, Tom took her hand to put it on his chest, kissed her and gave her to the groom.

Image Source: Lauren Demby/Lauren Renee Designs

After the wedding ceremony, he also took the honor to have the first dance with the bride before handing her to her mother, Bernice. The wedding eventually brought the two families closer and now they would want to meet for a get-together in the future.

Image Source: Lauren Demby/Lauren Renee Designs

Tom feels honored to have been a part of the wedding and for Jeni, it was like a dream come true. Jeni wrote all about it on Facebook and said, “It truly was the best day of my entire life. To be able to bring my dad home and have him at my wedding was an absolute dream come true!” She even wrote that she really hopes that her family’s story inspires others also to donate organs. She said, “If I helped just one person change their mind to become an organ donor, my wish in sharing my story has come true.”

A beautiful bond between the two families could be forged only through the spirit of humanity, and if the world can have more such people, then so much suffering can be reduced. Just like these two families, we also hope that people get inspired to donate organs. That would not only save the life of someone in need of an organ, but would also mean that a part of their loved ones always remains in the world, even after they depart to the heavenly world.

Feature Image Source: Lauren Renee Designs

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