It was the 4th of July, 2000, America’s Independence Day. As usual on every Independence Day since I was five, George and Terry, my two best friends, and I, went on a picnic. I diligently carried out my chores, packed my picnic bag and off I went to collect my friends. “It is going to be a beautiful day,” I thought to myself as I rode down the street. Unknown to me, I was to learn that day that the good die young.

The death of my best friend shook me to the core. I was angry, bitter and inconsolable. How could God take him away so soon? There were so many unscrupulous people around, but God chose to take George.  Life was never going to be the same again without George. A million friends could never replace him, or even one million angels, I thought. Then one evening, I was sitting with my mother after tea, and I asked her, “Mum, does God love us? If He does why does He hurt us so badly?” With loving, teary eyes she looked at me and said, “God loves us so much son. He takes the righteous when they are still little, before the world can hurt them, and makes them angels.”

George and I were born on the same day. His father and mine were best friends from their days in high school. Their story is very much like a novel or a movie about two life-long best friends. They joined the marines and both got married the same year. Interestingly, they had their firstborn on the same day. As fate would have it, George and I became real close friends. I did not have a sibling, and George became my twin brother. We did everything together and, interestingly, had similar talents. We were both outstanding in soccer and played in similar positions. To put it simply, we were inseparable. George had a big heart and was honest and caring. He would do anything for his friends, especially me. He was the perfect friend.

I feel George next to me, following whichever path I choose, because he is the most faithful of friends. He is my angel now.

It was almost dark and we had to rush home lest our parents got worried. Terry’s home was the nearest from the river. He shouted goodnight and rode into their compound. Next was George. “Remember your promise!” he shouted as he turned to enter their compound. Those words haunt me to this day. Out of nowhere, a sports car swerved around the corner and headed straight at us. “George!” I cried out as I swerved to avoid the oncoming car. The next thing I heard were skidding tires and a loud bang.

I was in a daze. I saw people screaming and running towards where the car had stopped. I think I passed out. When I came to, I saw George’s mother holding a bloody, lifeless body, weeping hysterically. The reality of the situation hit me like a thunderbolt. Inexplicably, my legs became weak. The earth started spinning wildly. I felt like a strong wind was lifting me up; I was swimming in the air. Then all of a sudden the wind stopped. I was unable to swim again and fell down with a thud. When I regained consciousness, I was in my bed. Mum was sitting beside me, and I could see she had been crying. “Why him?”  I asked her in frustration. She just cried, and I cried too.

We always held our little Independence Day picnic by the river. It was three quarters of a mile west of our apartment. As the three of us rode noisily past the houses, fireworks exploded loudly from the neighborhood. It was such a promising day. By the river, we played soccer, swam and caught fish – just a single, tiny and bony catfish. After having a late lunch, we sat down and talked and laughed loudly. Then out of the blue, George held my hand tightly. “Promise we will always be best friends; that we will be exactly like our dads?” he earnestly pleaded with me. I cannot explain why, but a chill ran down my spine. I had never seen George that serious before. “I promise,” I mumbled, barely audibly.