Almost every woman dreams of having her father walk her down the aisle on the biggest day of her life, her wedding day. Unfortunately, there are some women who lose their dads too soon because of an accident, tragedy or health-related cause.
Sure, a bride can find some solace in knowing that her father is there in spirit, smiling down upon her, but one lucky woman was able to have her father walk beside her, thanks to the man who received her father's heart.
Pennsylvania bride Jeni Stepien tragically lost her father when he was shot in a robbery by a 16-year-old when she was just 23 years old. Michael Stepien, 53, spent 24 hours on life support. His family decided to donate his organs to the organization Center for Organ Recovery and Education.
This decision saved the life of another man, Arthur Thomas, a New Jersey resident who would have died within days had he not received a new heart after suffering from congestive heart failure due to ventricular tachycardia. Thomas was lucky enough to get Stepien's heart.
Because the organization allows families of the organ donor and the transplant recipient to communicate with each other, Thomas wrote a thank you to the Stepien family after his recovery. Throughout the years, the two families have remained in touch.
So, after Paul Maenner asked Jeni to marry him in October 2015, the soon-to-be bride couldn't help but wonder who would walk her down the aisle. After hearing the suggestion from her fiancé, Jeni wrote to Thomas asking if he would do the honor, which would allow her to have a part of her father there with her that day.
Ten years after his death, Stepien — through his heart — was able to walk beside his daughter when the Maenner wedding took place on Aug. 6 in the same church, St. Anselm in Swissvale, where the bride's parents were married.
Thomas, simply called "Tom," and Jeni met face-to-face for the first time the night before the wedding. It was during this encounter that the bride was able to feel her dad's heart beating.
"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," the bride wrote on Facebook, sharing the story.
We expect there wasn't a dry eye in the church, and there's a good chance readers will now also be reaching for their box of tissues.
Photo: Terry Ku | Flickr