It’s a Christmas present that changed a Central Massachusetts man’s life.
It was a joyful and tearful meeting in Lanesborough last week, as Justin Lawson met his biological dad, grandmother, and half brother for the first time.
“I felt like I knew them, and I feel like I've always known them," said Lawson.
“It hit me like a ton or bricks, but I was so excited. To see a man when he pulled in that parking lot and his eyes. We embraced for so long," said Michael Stimpson, Justin’s biological dad.
Justin was born in Pittsfield and now lives in Southbridge. He was adopted later in life, but thought he knew his biological dad. A few weeks ago, Justin was surprised the Ancestry DNA kit he got for Christmas came back with a 100% match with a woman.
“I clicked her name and it said Arizona and I was like 'I love Arizona.' But then they said Pittsfield. I was like, 'That’s good,' " Justin said.
And after a few messages and some research, “I texted him, I said 'Honey, I think I’m your aunt.' We've got this family member that we just immediately loved and felt like he was never missing," said Heidi Germanowski, Justin’s biological aunt.
Some of Justin’s family lives in Pittsfield. His aunt and half sister are further away.
“It's changed my life, and you know, I always had that chapter missing. Even though if I didn't know it, nowing now, it's just really completed that the first part of my life," said Lawson.
Justin’s family feels the same.
“It’s been wonderful. And we're only two months apart, so it feels like I've gained a twin, and we've now since talked every day," said Sarah-Jo Stimpson Denu, Justin’s half sister.
His siblings say gaining another brother is a blessing in disguise. Mikey, their other brother, died.
“With Justin coming in to our lives, it felt like a second chance of being able to have that bond with an older brother, and I was eternally grateful for that," said Brett Stimpson, Justin’s half brother.
Although they’ve missed out on many years, this family plans on making the most of the future.
“I’m so happy for my son, the kids, and everybody that he is part of our family. And we'll make it good for him for the rest of the time we all have," said Joan Stimpson, Justin’s biological grandmother.
They hope to be an inspiration for others who might be looking for family they didn’t even know they were looking for.