February 21, 1945
The blizzard roared across the South Dakota plains with furry. The wind and snow made travel almost impossible. Several sisters did gather in a small house on The Pine Ridge Reservation to assist in the birth of a boy. Alvin Longsoldier was born in the dark with only a few candles to light the small room. No medical staff were present, although the sisters and his mother knew what was happening and how to be present at such a time. This was not the first birth to take place under similar circumstances. Alvin was welcomed into life by members of his family. All his relatives celebrated his birth. Among the Lakota a birth is a very special time for celebrating. He grew into a man and experienced life on the reservation. Some of the challenges of his life resulted in Alvin’s 30 years to Life sentence in a federal prison. He has been out for over 10 years.
The blast of that same cold air shook the windows of the white frame parsonage in Algona, Iowa several hours later. Barbara woke up her husband with the words, “Wake up Gene, the baby is coming.” It did not take the father long to pull on his pants and put on his heavy jacket and run out to the car. The snow had been shoveled before they went to bed but there was another drift blocking the garage. Once inside the car he turned the key and it would not start. Quick thinking, and perhaps even forethought the night before, he walked next door to where a highway patrol car sat still warm after a nights work. “Yes, I can take her to the hospital.” Gene stayed home with their three-year-old son still sleeping.
The birth was quick. The doctor had not yet arrived when the mother gave birth to her second child. A matronly African American woman who had assisted with most of the births in Kossuth County in the last several decades actually delivered him. Her strong hands held him as he sucked in his first breath. “It’s a boy.” She said as she held him for Mom to see. “Then his name is David Eugene, after my father and my husband, his father.” She smiled as she rested; pleased that once again she has participated in the sacred mystery of birth.
It would be several hours before Dad and Birger would arrive on the sled to visit. Few cars were running that morning in Algona, Iowa. The sun was extremely bright and made the white snow brilliant against the blue sky. Pastor Eugene Nelson was proud and pleased has he held his son David and introduced him to his brother Birger. Life was good in the Nelson household. In spite of a War in Europe and the Pacific, for this moment in this place with this family, life could not be better.
Alvin and David did not meet until both were in their 50s. Alvin was serving time and David was working in the Life Connections Program at United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. When the two discovered they shared a birthday, same day, same year, they began to share other stories. It didn’t take too long for a friendship to develop which would continue for the rest of their lives. They today claim their relationship as both sacred and wonderfully human. These “twins” from different Mothers celebrate the connections. Each year they visit by phone and give an update about their lives. Alvin lives in Colorado and leads Sweat Lodge Rituals for a rich variety of native sisters and brothers as well as others. David lives in Missouri and offers leadership for Vital Conversations and on occasion shares stories that shine light on The Human Agenda.