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Long lost siblings meet for the first time, thanks to an unexpected internet connection

Pershawn Mattison searched for more than three decades for her brother with no luck, until a hit on Ancestry.com changed everything.

It's a reunion two years in the making; an Atlanta woman discovering she has a half brother halfway across the world.

On a mid April evening, Pershawn Mattison sat on her front porch, surrounded by family. In the front yard, a large colorful sign reads "Welcome Tommy!"

She always knew she had a half brother, somewhere, but it took decades to meet him.

“I was trying everything to find him and no leads, no luck, nothing," she explained. "I had just about given up hope and was accepting the fact that I would never find him.”

But in late 2019, a hit on Ancestry.com changed everything.

“I was like, oh my gosh, I found my brother," Mattison recalled, smiling.

Tommy Carmichael was in England. The two were a 100% DNA match.

He’d never known his father, or that he had a sister.

“We started making plans for him to come in May 2020," Mattison said. "Then we found ourselves in a worldwide pandemic. Like, are you kidding me?!”

She pulled up a text from Carmichael, sent in 2021 after the new COVID surge forced them to cancel a second time.

"Come hell or high water," the text read, "I will be coming to Atlanta next year."

In April 2022, their patience paid off.

"Persistence, hope and faith is what got us here today and I'm so excited," she said.

As Carmichael arrived, the sound of tires on gravel immediately pulled everyone's attention. 

"Don't I know you?" he joked as he stepped out of the car, pulling Mattison into a hug. "Come here."

The two immediately collapsed into tears, leaning into the tight embrace.

"Thank you God, thank you Jesus," Mattison said through sobs. "I can't believe it."

Carmichael leaned down to kiss the top of his sister's head. "It's real," he whispered. "It's real."

“I think it's probably easier to say what I don't feel," Carmichael said a few minutes later, as he sat next to his half sister. "I don't feel out of place.”

That was no small thing for Carmichael, who now knows the father he thought abandoned him was murdered in 1975, not long after he was born.

“I grew up feeling as though I was a mistake or an accident., and that really shaped everything about how I saw where I came from, who I was," he added. "I felt like I didn't belong."

Carmichael told Mattision, "the thing that really shocked me when you got in touch was just knowing that dad did want me. Knowing I haven't been this guilty secret of something he'd done when he'd been out of the country and never to be talked about again. He didn't have a choice to come find me.”

As she grasped his hand, she assured him, "we knew about you. We couldn't find you, but you were never, ever, ever, ever a mistake or a secret. And he loved you.” 

Ultimately, it was a day that started with patience and ended with healing.

“I guess it’s something universal.," Carmichael said, as his eyes misted with emotion. "Whether someone's looking for relatives, whether someone's just generally going through the existential thing of trying to figure out where they belong. Don't let somebody else erase you. If I‘d succumbed to that, I wouldn't be here.”

A part of him never wanted to know about his father, Carmichael admitted.

He even changed his last name to Carmichael, because he wanted no association with the man he thought abandoned him.

That's why his sister had such a hard time finding him.

"For me, family was always something other people had," he said. "Other people have that. That wasn't for me that wasn't on offer for me. And so I just shut it off."

Carmichael also said it was an undeniable heartbreak, learning the father he'd never had the chance to know was killed. But finding his sister put everything into perspective. 

"When you put up those sort of barriers, you put those sort of defenses, you shut off a whole part of yourself," he said. "Part me is terrified, because now I've got something to lose. But for once, it's a really nice, positive adventure."

After five decades and a world apart, and Carmichael finally found that home was always, not so patiently, waiting.

“Family is everything," Mattison said, her smile reaching her shimmering eyes. "This is more than I could have ever hoped for.”

   

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