This story — if you've somehow missed it — will tug at your heart.
No, this news of a bride walked down the aisle by a man who received her father's heart is not a religion story per se. But after reading much of the coverage, I can't shake the feeling that there might be — just might be — a holy ghost here.
Before I explain, let's back up and review the basic details.
It’s a bittersweet wedding story a decade in the making: Nearly 10 years after Jeni Stepien’s father was killed, the man who received her father’s donated heart traveled from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to walk her down the aisle.
“The murder and the wedding happened within a three-block radius” in the town of Swissvale, Pa., Ms. Stepien, an elementary schoolteacher, said in an interview on Monday, as she was about to board a plane for her honeymoon. “And I was just thinking, ‘My dad is here with us, and this man is here with us because of us.’ ”
This story began in September 2006, when her father, Michael Stepien, was walking home from his job as head chef at a restaurant. Mr. Stepien, 53, was cutting through an alley when he was robbed at gunpoint by a 16-year-old, who shot him in the head at close range, she said. Leslie L. Brown was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing and is serving 40 years to life in prison, according to news reports.
As her father lay dying at a hospital, Ms. Stepien said, her family “decided to accept the inevitable” and donated his organs through an organization called the Center for Organ Recovery and Education.
The organization allows donor families and the recipients to keep in touch with one another after the transplant. Mr. Stepien’s heart went to Arthur Thomas, a father of four who lives in Lawrenceville, N.J., and who Ms. Stepien said had been within days of dying.
So why do I think that religious faith might be an unspoken — and important — factor in this story? Well, one clue is that the wedding occurs in the same church where the bride's parents were married, according to the Times. That hints at a family history with that church.
Another reason is that organ transplants, in general, seem to require a whole lot of faith — religious or otherwise. As one doctor told me earlier this year, "I truly see miracles every day."
In a video on CNN’s YouTube channel, Stepien is shown thanking Thomas for coming. As he placed her hand on his wrist and his chest to feel her father’s heartbeat, she was overcome with emotion and gratitude.
“I was just so thankful that my dad could be here today in spirit and a piece of his physical being, as well. That was very special for us,” Stepien said in the video.
So what am I suggesting, from a journalistic standpoint? Simply that an additional question or two — such as where the bride sees God in this situation and/or the role of faith in overcoming her father's death and moving forward — might yield crucial details that would make this already emotional, uplifting story even better.