My grief overcame me as I awoke one morning not long after my brother died.
It was neither gentle nor subtle. It was violent, pounding every fiber of my being.
Although I don't know who you are, I felt compelled to write you. I'm not even sure that my brother, Zack Murray, had just one dealer.
I'm jealous, angry and sad that you're the person my brother turned to that Friday night in early July. He choose to call you instead of any of the multitude of people at his memorial service July 24.
You are the person to whom addicts gravitate in moments of weakness.
You see them at their worst: When they're painfully going through withdrawal and need to score; when their demons win the battle and they relapse; when they've betrayed family, friends and themselves in order to use.
They come to you filled with regret, self-loathing and shame. Maybe you don't allow yourself to see that part.
How did you meet my brother? Did someone introduce the two of you just so Zack could score?
Did he buy large amounts infrequently or small amounts often?
Did you hang out or just meet to deal? Where did you meet to exchange?
Did you offer him a "welcome-back deal" when he relapsed?
Did Zack discuss his day with you?
Did you see his infectious smile?
Did you know Zack had a son?
Did you really know my brother?
I don't think my brother ever shared his true self with you. If he had, you wouldn't have been able to deal to him. You wouldn't have wanted to see that beautiful person turned into a shell of something else.
In order to prepare for Zack's memorial service, I practiced my eulogy 42 times. I wanted to memorize and deliver it without crying.
Memorizing it meant I could scan the crowd while speaking, not to make eye contact with guests, but rather to pick out the unknown faces in the crowd.
One of them might have been you.
I'm not sure why, but I thought maybe you'd be there. Do you go to funerals out of respect for your customers? Or are they replaceable?
I truly hope you were there to hear how much my brother was loved. I hope you saw the joy he brought to others. I hope you were there to hear every word of my eulogy.
The next time an addict shows up to score, take a good look at the person in front of you.
Don't look at the addict's appearance -- take a moment to look at the human being.
Watch how his or her chest rises and falls with each breath.
Know that person has a heart beating behind those ribs.
Look the person in the eyes, knowing the package you're handing over might spell death.
Understand that you might be the last person the addict ever sees. Not a child. Not a sibling. You.
I know my words probably won't change the path you're on. However, I don't believe you aspired as a child to be a drug dealer. You have a heart and soul.
I beg you to please start looking at your "customers" as actual people. They are human beings with people who love them.
People like me who would rather be playing "Rock Band" with her brother than writing a letter to you with his ashes sitting beside her.
Tiffany Stewart is a Jersey Township resident. She lost her 33-year-old brother, Zack, to an overdose July 8. She hopes her open letter helps at least one person involved in the local opiate crisis.