I suppose the truth is this: we never know the most important moments of our live, even when they are happening.
The storm was bad. Like really bad. The kind of thing you see on the news a day later with people crying and houses blown down. We were working at a rodeo, serving food. It was almost like a tradition for a storm to happen that night, it happened every year. No one was surprised to say the least. When the wind started, the dirt and dust flew all around stinging our eyes and blurring our vision. The audience screamed, she screamed, I shouted, I don't even recall what was said. I clung to her back, trying my hardest to protect her from the storm like any good big brother would. I can remember her shaking in my arms as she sobbed.
I'm guessing that you probably think that this is the moment where I tell you everything changed. It wasn't. The storm died down just a bit. Our boss took her aside. I watched as she nodded and wiped her eyes. He patted her shoulder and gestured to one of the senior employees named Jan.
Now here comes the part that I tell you that the most important moment in your life can happen without even knowing it.
"I'm going home with Jan," she had yelled at me while walking to the parking lot. I wish I had done more at that moment. I wish I had said something like, "Be safe," or "I love you," or even "I'll see you when I get home." But I didn't know. I didn't know that this was only the calm before the, well, the real storm. I just went back to my work, barely acknowledging what she had said. It's almost surreal, I don't even think I remember it correctly, I just wasn't paying attention. It wasn't like I knew that would be the last time I ever saw her. It's funny, right before she got in the car she looked at me. A fleeting look that was barely one at all. She had a smile on her tear streaked and muddy face. That's the way I'll always remember her, that smile and that muddy face.
It was the last time we had said goodbye, and we didn't even speak.
Well, the storm got worse, we were put in shelters, we did stuff that happens with tornadoes come around. I didn't worry that much, I mean I worried, but I thought she was home by then. I knew for a fact that the storm was far enough from our house to not bother it. She'd be okay.
I never could have guessed that she had forgotten something, and turned around halfway from home. I could never have guessed with the rain pelting the car so hard that Jan would lose control. I could never have guessed that by the time help came, she had been dead for nearly an hour.
How many things could I have said that day as she turned away from me? How many times have I relived that moment, changed it to say the things I wish I had? But it's true, I didn't know how important that moment was until it was gone. Until she was gone. Big brothers are supposed to protect their little sisters. I failed.