Memorial Fund for Tracy Zweig - The Light Shines On
Organized by: Sara Grubel
My sister Tracy was born on November 20, 1990 in Tirana, Albania. 6 months later, my father and step-mother, two adults yearning to build a family of their own, made the long trek to an Albanian orphanage to adopt a little boy and a little girl. While Tracy’s body was nearly all skin and bones and deprived of food and nutrients, the light in her big brown eyes shined through to them and they were captivated by her huge smile, as they peered at her tiny body laying listless in the crib. They were in love immediately and took her and our new brother Andy, home to Michigan. As it turned out, they were the first children to be adopted from Albania to the United States after the fall of communism in that country.
I recall meeting them for the first time. At the age of 12 and having an older brother, I was so excited to finally be the older sister. I dreamed about teaching them the important things about life, playing with them and simply loving them. As Tracy lay in my lap sucking on her bottle, making little coo sounds, I finally had my dream come true.
Living many miles away, and being 12 years older, it wasn’t as easy as I expected to maintain a relationship with Tracy or Andy. I grew older, dealing with the typical High School drama of boyfriends and bullies. Then college came around and I was focusing on building my life and my future. All the while, I would see Tracy upon my visits to Michigan and hear about how she and Andy were doing when I spoke with my father. Tracy led a troubled life. She had a hard time finding herself, loving herself and understanding herself. She felt different and didn’t know why.
As Tracy grew older, she began to make the wrong decisions. Decisions that impacted her and those around her and had consequences that she felt defined her. She became friends with people that introduced her to drugs and once she started, she couldn’t stop. As her family, we loved her and supported her and cared for her the best way we knew how. But still, Tracy had trouble finding herself, loving herself and understanding herself.
One day, Tracy had the courage to identify to us as gay. It wasn’t a surprise to me and I’m assuming it wasn’t a surprise to anyone else in our family. In fact, I was proud of her. Proud that she had started being true to herself and started understanding herself. In all honesty, I couldn’t care less. As her sister, all I wanted was for her to feel what it meant to love another person so deeply, regardless of whether that person was a male or female.
Over the years, Tracy continued to battle with depression and addiction. She was in an out of treatment centers, all of which helped at the time. But something always happened – there was always some trigger that sent her back into that dark, dark world. A few years ago, she found herself in Thailand at a Buddhist Monestary for troubled people struggling with addiction. In speaking with her, she found great peace and serenity there. The way she spoke about that place engulfed the room. They had touched her deep in her soul and it was the best time of her life. She felt more close to herself than she ever had before. She was surrounded by the beautiful countryside and other people who were just like her. People who wanted better things in their lives. She wasn’t different anymore. She was sober. She was happy. This place was truly special. The monks opened their doors to Tracy and others. They opened their hearts and their souls and they helped her in a way that no one else was able to. And, they did it all for free. They did this for Tracy and they continue to do this for other people like her, people who are loved like she was and who are troubled like she was and they do it for free – the only source of income is donations from people like you and me.
She returned to the States many months later feeling good, proud of herself and more connected to who she is and who she wanted to become. We would talk about her desire to be a mother one day, to go to school and do something important in her life and how she really felt she would never live to be 24 years old. At one point, she was motivated to help other addicts. Instead, she picked up jobs here and there, started earning a living and was once again, proud of herself. But by being away from that serene place in Thailand, she got pulled back into her old life, hanging with her old friends, and started making bad decisions once again, trying to ease the pain she felt deep within her.
Two weeks ago, Tracy texted me. I could sense the excitement bouncing from the phone. She was so proud of herself that she was 9 months sober. She was exercising. She was coloring. She was bobbing along to music. She loved music, she wanted to make me a tape of all of her favorite songs. I lovingly agreed and shared how proud I was of her.
Then something happened. I don’t know what and I’m not sure it matters. That pain deep within her took over and Tracy needed the fix again. This time she took too much. On February 22nd, just a few months after turning 25, the light in her eyes faded away and she was taken from us forever.
My family and I are devastated. Was she a handful? Yes. Did we love her unconditionally? Yes. And as we prepare to say goodbye, we yearn to hear her voice and laugh and look at the light in her eyes. The only thing we know to do is to be grateful for her life, be grateful for how she impacted us and be grateful to that monastery for helping her to find some serenity and peace during the dark times in her life.
With pure sadness in our hearts, we decided to create a donation fund to help the monastery that meant so much to Tracy. The place where so many people find their way out of the darkness and into the light. Addiction impacts people and their families in ways unimaginable. And while those suffering may be difficult to understand, they are still people. People deserving of a second or third or fourth chance. People deserving of our love, and people in need of a serene place where they can find peace and heal fully.
Please join us to support this amazing Monastery, as everything they do for our families and the people we all love, is free. Without our support it won’t exist and won’t be able to support the families around us suffering from addiction without our knowledge. Addiction is real. And it doesn’t have to define anyone, like my sister Tracy thought it did.
I love you Tracy. xo