Jeni Stepien’s wedding was like no other because in the place of her late dad stood a man whose heart was that of her own dad – and it was such a beautiful moment…
Michael Stepien, Jeni’s dad, died in a robbery in 2006. His family decided to donate his organs – and one of these recipients is a man who had been waiting for 10 years for a new heart. Arthur Thomas, whom the Stepien family calls as “Tom”, was dying of heart failure – and he would have died soon enough had he not received Michael’s heart.
In gratitude to his “second life”, Tom wrote to the Stepien family the Christmas after his transplant. This would kick off years of friendship between him and the Stepiens; though they never had the chance to meet.
When Jeni began planning for her wedding, she was saddened by the fact that her dad was not alive to “give her away”; then, she realized that a part of him still lives in Tom! She knew there was not one who could play a more meaningful role in her wedding as him.
Not wanting to pressure Tom into agreeing to stand as her dad, Jeni’s fiancé suggested that she write him instead of giving him a call. She did. A few days after she sent the letter, she received a call from Tom telling her that he would be greatly honored to be her “dad” for the wedding.
On the eve of her wedding, Tom arrived in Pennsylvania where he got the chance to meet the family of the man whose heart he is now using. Jeni, her sister, and their mother were able to hear dad Michael’s heart beat in Tom’s chest. It was an emotional moment.
The wedding had been fun!
“Meeting Tom was so incredible! He is such a gracious and kind-hearted man. You could tell he was so thankful for his life, and that radiated from him,” Jeni revealed. “My mother was very touched by the idea also and thought it was a very appropriate gesture to honor my father. I knew how important it would be for her and my sister to receive this piece of closure by finally meeting Tom as well. I wanted to make the day special for everyone, not just for myself.”
She also shared a wonderful realization, “Organ donation can provide an opportunity for a second chance at life. It is an exceptional gift, one that is selfless and generous, and always appreciated by the recipient. We were able to see how wonderfully Tom was progressing all of these years, simply thriving, and [that] in turn, helped us with our own grief.”
What a beautiful story…