I have a brother, Jon Dylan Shackelford. He was 14 when Shirley and Johnny were killed. He wasn’t with them – praise the Lord for that. At his choice, I haven’t spoken to him for at least 8 years, but it may be even longer than that. I just can’t remember.
In many ways, I feel sorry for Jon. He was raised as an only child, as Kelly and I grew up with our dad and “mom”. Jon was eight years younger than me, and I only got to see him a handful of times when we were kids. We really didn’t know each other at all – only be association. By the time I was in college and spending time with Shirley, he was eleven. He was the sweetest boy who lived most of his life on his own – taking care of himself. Because of this, he was independent, and quite stubborn. To say Shirley was a work-aholic is somewhat of an understatement. She was an addict, so when she got clean and sober she found a new addiction – her work. She was great at it, but somewhat obsessive at times.
When Shirley and John died, Jon went to live with an aunt and uncle on his father’s side. That didn’t seem to last very long. Kelly and I begged him to move to Florida with us after the funeral, but he wanted to stay close to his family. I don’t really blame him in that. Not long after he’d moved in with this family, I was bullied by his aunt to stop calling him. She didn’t like me and she had a way of being intimidating. I’m sorry I didn’t make a better effort to stay in touch with him. I let my own personal feelings of fear and anger keep me from being the kind of sister I needed to be. Most days I think about Jon, and I pray for him – for his safety, his well being, his heart, his health, his happiness. I pray also that we’ll be reunited again one day.
I also have a sister out there. I’ve never met her. I don’t even know her name. She was adopted out as a baby. I don’t even know if she knows she’s adopted. My parents had divorced and we were living with my dad at the time of her birth. I was a teenager when I first found out about her. I was angry and spiteful. I made it very clear to Shirley that I wanted nothing to do with this girl. Her very existence was evidence of the kind of lifestyle that Shirley lived while she was married to my father. As the years have progressed, and as I’ve changed my attitude about the meaning of family, I’m now quite curious about who she is and where she is. I have no way of ever finding her but I know she’s out there somewhere. I pray that she has a happy life – a healthy life. And maybe one day, I’ll have the pleasure of introducing myself to her.
Family is the most important thing in this world. I know that now. I hope you do too.