There was an emotional moment for one bride last weekend when she was walked down the aisle by a man who was donated a heart by her father when he died.
Jeni Stepien Maenner, from Arlington in Virginia, spoke about how glad she was that some part of her father could be represented at her big day, despite the fact that he’s no longer with us.
Obviously, donating your organs – particularly your heart – to someone else in need is one of the best and most generous things you can do.
The gesture certainly wasn’t lost on Arthur Thomas, from New Jersey.
Thomas – better known as ‘Tom’ – was the grateful recipient of the organ from Michael Stepien after he was killed at gunpoint during a robbery, and he was all too happy to appear at the wedding of Jeni Stepien to Paul Maenner this weekend.
‘Tom’ walked Jeni down the aisle in place of her father. Credit: ABC News
Jeni told ABC News: “It was unbelievably shocking to our family.
“It was very quick ordeal.
“My father had been shot through his temples.
“He was so charismatic, and he was such an athlete.
“He played baseball religiously and tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the ’70s.
“He was very caring. He really wanted the best for us girls, and my mom.”
Of her big day, she added: “The day was absolutely, incredibly perfect.
“Before we walked down the aisle, we had this moment where he said, ‘If it’s OK with you, when I’m ready to offer your hand to your husband, you can touch my chest and feel my heart.’
“It was so awesome to have a piece of my father physically there.”
Michael Stepien was killed in a robbery. Credit: ABC News
Tom received the heart two days after Michael’s death, and he’s been exchanging letters with Jeni for a while now.
That started before the wedding, when Jeni sent him one that read: “Tom, I’m the daughter of the man whose heart’s inside you, and I’m going to get married on August 6th.
“One further thing, if you’re willing — would you walk me down the aisle?”
Jeni is the first person that Tom has ever walked down the aisle.
She continued: “I had a father-daughter dance with him and one special dance with my mom.
“We just talked the whole time and smiled at each other.
“I was just so blessed that he was there with us.”