Pershawn Mattison searched for his brother for more than three decades without success, until a hit on Ancestry.com changed everything.
It’s a reunion two years in the making; an Atlanta woman finds out she has a half-brother halfway around the world.
One evening in mid-April, Pershawn Mattison sat on her porch, surrounded by her 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 find him.
“I was trying everything to find him and no leads, no luck, nothing,” she explained. “I had pretty much given up hope and was accepting the fact that I would never find him again.”
But at the end of 2019, a hit on Ancestry.com changed everything.
“I was like, oh my God, I found my brother,” Mattison recalled with a smile.
Tommy Carmichael was in England. The two were a 100% DNA match.
He had never known his father, nor that he had a sister.
“We started making plans for him to come in May 2020,” Mattison said. “Then we got into a global pandemic. Like, are you kidding me?!”
She picked 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’ll be coming to Atlanta next year.”
In April 2022, their patience paid off.
“Perseverance, hope and faith is what got us here today and I’m so excited,” she said.
When Carmichael arrived, the sound of the tires on the gravel immediately caught everyone’s attention.
“Don’t I know you?” he joked as he got out of the car, hugging Mattison. “Come here.”
The two immediately broke down in tears, leaning into the tight embrace.
“Thank you God, thank you Jesus,” Mattison said through sobs. “I can not believe it.”
Carmichael leaned down to kiss the top of his sister’s head. “It’s real,” he whispered. “It’s true.”
“I think it’s probably easier to say what I don’t feel,” Carmichael said 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 that the father he thought had abandoned him was murdered in 1975, shortly after he was born.
“I grew up feeling like I was a mistake or an accident, and that really shaped everything 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 daddy wanted me. Knowing that I wasn’t that secret guilty of anything he did when he was out of the country and never to talk about it again, he had no choice but to come find me.
As she grabbed his hand, she assured him, “We knew about you. We couldn’t find you, but you were never, ever, ever, ever been a mistake or a secret. And he loved you. .”
In the end, it was a day that started with patience and ended with healing.
“I guess it’s something universal,” Carmichael said, as his eyes clouded with emotion. Don’t let anyone else erase you. If I had succumbed to this, I wouldn’t be here.
Part of him never wanted to know his father, Carmichael admitted.
He even changed his last name to Carmichael, as he wanted no association with the man he thought had 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. It wasn’t for me, it wasn’t offered for me. And so I just turned it off.”
Carmichael also said it was undeniable heartbreak, hearing that the father he never had the chance to know had been killed. But finding his sister puts everything into perspective.
“When you put up those kinds of barriers, you put those kinds of defenses up, you shut down a whole part of yourself,” he said. “Part of me is terrified, because now I have something to lose. But for once, it’s a very nice positive adventure.”
After five decades and a world apart, Carmichael finally discovered that the house was still waiting, not so patiently.
“Family is everything,” Mattison said, his smile reaching his twinkling eyes. “It’s more than I could have hoped for.”