August 8, 2016 7:50 AM EDT

Pennsylvania bride Jeni Stepien, who lost her father a decade ago, was walked down the aisle by the man who received his heart in a transplant.

Arthur Thomas was given Michael Stepien’s heart in 2006 after he was murdered in Swissvale during a robbery, reports the Huffington Post. “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 KDKA.

After the transplant Thomas kept in touch with the Stepien family, but he only met Jeni on Aug. 5 after she wrote to ask him to walk her down the aisle as her father could not be there. “When my fiancé proposed, one of the first things I thought of was ‘but who will walk me down the aisle?’ I could think of nobody more meaningful than Tom,” Stepien told the Post. “My fiancé suggested I write him a letter; that way Tom would feel in no way obligated or pressured by my request.”

“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,” the bride told KDCA, saying her special day would not have been possible without Thomas.

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