Deep Healing

An accomplished scientist and businessman, Stephen Levine has spent his whole life Stephen Levinesearching.

That restlessness is driven by a quest that is both emotional and intellectual, a desire to learn more about the world around him and himself. It was also driven by what he calls a deep emotional trauma. But that intense curiosity about who he was and where he came from was recently rewarded with a family connection he could have only made with the help of 23andMe.

“There is a lovely tender, tear rendering story here,” said Stephen, a Ph.D., who lives in Northern Washington and works in nutritional medicine.

He’d been adopted and grew up in Brooklyn in a family in which he felt alien and disconnected to his adoptive mother.Using details from a story his adoptive mother told him about his birth, Stephen tracked down his biological mother when he was in his early 30s.It wasn’t the kind of reunion he’d hoped for, however.

“She was a broken person, a street person,” he said.His mother had agreed to meet him at a White Castle fast food restaurant in Brooklyn. It was a strange place for a mother and son reunion, and while he drove to the meeting, Stephen questioned whether he’d really found the right person at all.

“Intellectually I knew it was her, but emotionally I was so shaken up I just didn’t know,” he said.

But he thought to himself:

“If this is really my mom, then when I look at her face, I will know 100 percent,” he said. “And, she’ll have green eyes.”

Just after he parked his car at the restaurant a woman knocked on his window.“I saw her face and I saw my face within it, with her green eyes,” he said.Wanting to get to know her and learn more about his biological family, Stephen spent two days with her in a large hotel suite that he’d rented.

“She was obviously mentally imbalanced and depressed,” Stephen said. “I asked her many questions including the name of my biological father. She did give me his last name.”

After that initial meeting, he tried to develop a relationship with her, but it was too painful and difficult for her, he said. She eventually asked him to leave her alone.His reunion with his mother stopped any additional searching for family for three decades until his own daughter, Ariel, reignited it when she tested with 23andMe.Ariel’s 23andMe results showed a close connection with a woman she didn’t know. That woman, Marilyn, sent her a message. Marilyn wanted to figure out how they were so closely related. 23andMe showed that Marilyn was either Ariel’s aunt or a close cousin, and Marilyn’s father matched her as a grandfather.Ariel told Marilyn, who was from Brooklyn, about her dad being adopted and originally being from Brooklyn. Marilyn and Stephen then connected and in an email exchange Marilyn asked Stephen if he knew his biological father’s last name. He told her he didn’t, only that it was a short name and started with “Z.”

“My maiden name is Zwick,” Marilyn emailed back.“I knew in that instant, that this was the name that my mother had told me, over 30 years ago, and that this was my father’s family,” Stephen said. “I’ll never forget that moment.”

Stephen quickly booked a flight back to New York, renting an apartment where he met his sister Marilyn as well as his biological father and a collection of other relativesAt first his father, a retired sociology teacher, was standoffish, but as they talked it became obvious that Stephen was genuine. The two men looked a lot alike and even have similar mannerisms. At some point, it seemed to dawn on his biological father that Stephen was indeed his son.

He got up and walked over to Stephen, embracing him and saying:

“I have always wanted a son.”

It was more than Stephen could have hoped for, he said. They sat together and talked and Stephen learned that he and his father shared some of the same interests. They both liked doing yoga, meditation, and that they have some of the same sensibilities. For Stephen, who’d been searching for so long, meeting his biological family was a revelation.

“They accepted me,” Stephen said. “In my mind why should they love me, but they do. It’s very deep healing.”

  • miltlee

    Thanks for the wonderful story. I am familiar with this sort of story. I too was adopted, and then before I got married I had a child given up for adoption without my knowledge. Then after I got married, we adopted 3 kids of our own. This is the reality of a bloodline. I do have some questions for 23 and me, and I’m not sure where to get the answers. I wonder if you are a male (that’s me!) can I only get the heritage from my father’s side, or can I find out about the folks on my mom’s side too? Same thing for my wife – can she only find out about her ancestors on her mom’s side? Finally what about native heritage? I’m enrolled as a tribal member but I have native blood from my mom and my dad. Does 23 and Me know about individual tribes – or just the idea that you have native blood? So curious!

    • 23blog

      Hi Miltlee,
      We are inherit 50 percent of our DNA from our mothers and 50 percent from our fathers. So the results 23andMe reports to all its customers, both men and women, represent the contributions from both parents – and all branches of the family tree. Your ancestry composition will reflect both your parents contributions as well the DNA Relative matches you receive. The difference between men’s and women’s results are that we cannot assign a paternal line to women. Since women do not have a Y chromosome. You can learn a little more about that here:

      The link will explain a little bit about the differences in results between men and women.
      You also asked about Native American ancestry. 23andMe does have several features that can reveal genetic evidence of Native American ancestry, although they are not considered a confirmatory test or proof of such ancestry in a legal context. Here’s a link explaining a little more about this: