A Wedding with a Donated Heart at Its Centre

That’s the title of an article I read earlier this year in the New York Times.  The accompanying photo was of a young bride at the altar turning towards the older gentleman who had walked her down the aisle.  Her hand was gently placed upon his left breast.  From the title and the photo I was able to guess what the story was about, and I could feel myself getting emotional.  As I read on, tears welled-up in my eyes.

In 2006 the bride’s father, Michael Stepien, was robbed at gunpoint and shot at close range.  As he lay dying in hospital, his family bravely accepted the inevitability of his death and made the decision to donate his organs in order to save someone else’s life.

At the same time, a father of four, Arthur Thomas, also lay dying in hospital of congestive heart failure.  After a sixteen year struggle with a heart disease, Mr. Thomas had only days to live when he received word from his doctors that a transplant donor had been found.

After recovering, Mr. Thomas wrote the Stepien family to thank them for the gift of his life, and to express condolences for their loss.  After that the families corresponded periodically, but never met.  Years later when Mr. Stepien’s daughter, Jeni, got engaged and began to think about who would walk her down the aisle a crazy thought occurred to her.  If Arthur Thomas walked her down the aisle, a piece of her father would be with her on her wedding day.  With encouragement from her fiancé, Jeni asked Mr. Thomas, and he agreed.

Walking down the aisle on her wedding day, Jeni held onto Mr. Thomas’s wrist rather than his arm.  Holding his wrist, Jeni could feel his pulse.  “I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad,” Mr. Thomas said.  “That’s her father’s heart beating.”

I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself.  It’s a life-affirming story that will send shivers down your spine, and warm your heart.

Celebrant Marcia Thomson, Modern Celebrant

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