Instead of having her dad walk her down the aisle, she got his heart. Literally.

Jeni Stepien invited Arthur Thomas, a New Jersey man who received her father’s heart in a lifesaving transplant 10 years ago, to walk her down the aisle during her wedding on Friday, according to CBS Pittsburgh.

He gladly accepted, and he traveled to the ceremony at the St. Anselm church in Swissvale, Pennsylvania, on Friday to happily assist.

Thomas and Stepien had corresponded by letter and talked on the phone periodically for 10 years, but they finally met in person on Friday, according to

Stepien’s father, Michael Stepien, was killed by a mugger in Swissvale 10 years ago, and Thomas subsequently received the deceased man’s heart. He had been waiting 16 years for a donor before undergoing the lifesaving operation, according to the report.

“I was on death’s door when he was murdered, and I needed a heart or I was going to be dying in the next few days,” Thomas told CBS Pittsburgh.

Jeni asked Thomas if he would do the honors in a letter, which also heartened Paul Maenner, her groom.

“I was just so thankful that my dad could be here with us today in spirit and a piece of his physical being as well. That was really special for us,” she told the station.