In Memory

January 16, 2015
By Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 519 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain


“Did you know a boy named Max Hendrickson?”

Good question. Did I? Hendrickson? From where? Sunnyvale, you say. The name sure sounds familiar. Maybe Kaylee Hendrickson? Oh, that was his sister? Well, then there you go. Wait, what do you mean “was”?

What? Hit by the Caltrain? How old was he? I don’t understand. How? When? You mean this last Saturday, like 3 days ago? How did you find out?

And I’m running into the basement, pulling out boxes and loose papers, rifling through certificates of academic achievements and old Scantron tests to find the 2011 yearbook. If he was a year younger than I am, then the year we moved from Sunnyvale, Max would have been…

Yes, sixth grade, third page in, wedged in between Hammond and Herrera. A little boy looking out at me from a page full of faces. When this picture was taken, he had just over four years left. Did he know? I search the brown curls lazily looping over his forehead, the mischievous spark in his brown eyes, the peaceful smile resting calmly on his face. He doesn’t look like someone who knew. He looks like a sixth grader, like a kid. He looks like a little brother and a son. He looks like a friend. So this was Max Hendrickson.

Google scrolls out a long list of results, the first headline catching my eye. “Teen fatally struck by Caltrain in Sunnyvale identified.” It’s about Max, but it’s not. There’s no way Max was just this, just another teen struck by Caltrain, just a mystery boy until someone got him identified. He must have been so much more.

So I go to his Instagram, and I watch the pictures flip through, of him and his girlfriend. His status reads, “Isabelle is my forever.” I guess she really was…. I click on a shot of him with his bike, flipping off the camera next to a caption with more hashtags than words. My mouse jerks to the right, and now I’m staring at a gorgeous photo of him and the girl who must be Isabelle, kissing in front of a San Francisco landmark. On the right, friends leave their condolences.

I click on the first guy’s name, wondering if I will recognize any of Max’s friends. The desperation builds, to know this boy, to connect the name to more than a face. He’s gone now. Did I ever have the chance to meet him? I’m looking for a memory. I don’t know the friend’s name, but I catch sight of the picture above his status post. It’s Max. Just like the one over the next guy’s status. And the next.

I search through the pictures, the comments, the friends. Everyone is remembering Max Hendrickson. They’re all talking, endless words peppered with “I miss you” and “I didn’t want to believe.” Every comment another mark of “RIP” or “ima skate for you.” There’s a hashtag already, and they’re asking each other to call, to text, “if you need anything.” It’s almost an open invitation, extended to everyone… except me.

Because I’m sitting here racking my brains, flipping through every memory of the sixth grade class, wondering if I ever saw him. Did I bump into him in the halls, sit next to him at lunch, sing happy birthday to him when the whole cafeteria erupted in “Happy birthday, dear Scxdermufls” because no one except a few close friends actually knew who had started singing and for whom?

Maybe. But probably not. So I’m sitting here, heart breaking, tears slowly spilling out, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that in all probability… I didn’t know Max Hendrickson. Not Max the little brother, not Max the boyfriend, not Max the friend, not even Max the “BMX rida,” as he called himself. So why do I feel like I’ve been hit just as hard?

I scroll further down, and my eyes rest on a quote he reposted a few months ago, scanning the words over and over. “Don’t count the days,” Max said. “Make the days count.” And I want to know: did you, Max?

I don’t know.

But I want to. I will. Because Max is gone, but as I go through the pictures a second time, I look at how many people are still here. Isabelle, his friends, the classmates, the family. And me. And maybe I’m not the only one who heard and said, “Who was he?” because doesn’t he deserve to be remembered?

Yes.

So I’m going to remember you, Max. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know me. I don’t care. I’m going to remember you. When I’m walking down the hall at school, C+ paper in my hand, wondering why I bother. When my little sister runs out the front door and screams my name because I just got back from school, and my heart just totally overflows. When I’m with my own little brother, and my own best friend, and one day, maybe with my own son. I never want to forget how short it is. I never want to miss another moment, to lose out on one more second to spend in this beautiful life.

So RIP. And I miss you. And I didn’t want to believe. And ditto to everything else your friends have posted. But more than that. Thank you. I’m not letting any more time pass me by. One day, when all is said and done, I hope to have the privilege of meeting you for real, in a better place. I’d like to thank you then for reminding me now to live.



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This article has 61 comments.


Jc543 BRONZE said...
on Aug. 24 2015 at 11:34 pm
Jc543 BRONZE, Bronx, NY, New York
3 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

This was a stirring piece, Belia. I admire the way you show how death affects all of us even if the person in question had no meaningful connection. At the end of the day we're all bound to die and a death close to us only reinforces this fact. We're forced to reflect upon our own lives and realize that life is indeed precious. Some days won't be perfect, but its still worth living.

Beila BRONZE said...
on Aug. 23 2015 at 3:59 pm
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 519 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain

Thank you. :) And yes! I love that idea. Thanks for sharing your take. I love that about writing--how it hits every person differently. As long as you connected to Max, and you clearly did, I count that as a success. And in truth, it's even more meaningful to me than that, because I honestly did never meet him, so every new person who sees Max through my words also connects *me* to him. And isn't that what I was searching for all along? So thank you, honestly. It means a lot.

on Aug. 23 2015 at 8:53 am
simple_effect SILVER, Franklin Park, New Jersey
6 articles 0 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Security is a superstition; it does not exist in nature. Life is either one daring adventure or nothing." ~Helen Keller

This was simply an amazing piece. Enough said. Every aspect from the continuous questions at the beginning--which was very attracting--to the realization that every day in the world matters just as much as the passing ones or the future ones. To be honest, I actually thought halfway through that the person telling the story was going to be Max, and he was disappointed that he never got to learn about himself, discover himself, before he passed on. That is why "he" was looking at the pictures and not knowing much, like he never really lived to the fullest because he never found himself at first. Anyways :), this was truly captivating and overall incredible. Keep it up!

Beila BRONZE said...
on Aug. 21 2015 at 8:21 pm
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 519 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain

Thank you! And keep your eyes out for it--it's coming! ;)

ellwist SILVER said...
on Aug. 21 2015 at 7:58 am
ellwist SILVER, Surabaya, Other
7 articles 2 photos 93 comments

Favorite Quote:
"They only let you be this happy when they're preparing to take something from you." -Khaled Hosseini, the Kite Runner.

This is a captivating, absolutely gorgeous piece. I just loved how true it is, and how small it makes the reader feel, as if death could approach at any time, at any date, and it wouldn't matter what you do. You're no longer the subject, but an object. A thing to be toyed with, until you break. And I utterly loved how it isn't about you mourning over the death of a loved one, but of a stranger you only slightly knew well. It emphasized the matter even more. You're an absolutely gorgeous author--I expect to see more from you soon enough.

Meital.S GOLD said...
on Aug. 18 2015 at 2:35 pm
Meital.S GOLD, Netanya, Other
13 articles 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein

This brought tears to my eyes! It was written so beautifully, and in such a pure and realistic matter. You didn't know Max, though you desperately wanted to, and that is also a way to be saddened by someone's passing. Thank you for writing such a heartbreaking piece and for sharing your goal.

Beila BRONZE said...
on Aug. 14 2015 at 3:58 pm
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 519 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain

Thank you!

on Aug. 13 2015 at 7:26 pm
ThrillQueen126 SILVER, Seattle, Washington
6 articles 0 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
“A star falls from the sky and into your hands. Then it seeps through your veins and swims inside your blood and becomes every part of you. And then you have to put it back into the sky. And it's the most painful thing you'll ever have to do and that you've ever done. But what's yours is yours. Whether it’s up in the sky or here in your hands. And one day, it'll fall from the sky and hit you in the head real hard and that time, you won't have to put it back in the sky again.”
― C. JoyBell C.

i really love your writing style. It flows so well, and is so original and touching.

on Aug. 12 2015 at 11:13 am
futurista12 ELITE, Far Rockaway, New York
615 articles 1 photo 114 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And though she be but little, she is fierce."- Shakespeare

Wow. This was really heartfelt and touching. It reminded me of when my cousin died in a car wreck. "Don't count the days, make the days count." Thank you for that.

on Jul. 31 2015 at 9:18 am
SkippyPeanutbutter SILVER, Utrecht, Other
9 articles 0 photos 50 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found, even at the darkest of times. If one only remembers to turn on the light." -Albus Dumbledore
"We're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?" -the Eleventh Doctor

I really love the perspective of this story! It's super original and gripping.

Beila BRONZE said...
on Jul. 16 2015 at 8:55 pm
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 519 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain

Thanks, but to be fair, I didn't "make" anyone. This is nonfiction, so Max was a very real boy, even though I did change his last name. I think one of the reasons that I wrote this, though, was to show that at the end of the day, it didn't matter that he swore too much or did stupid things or didn't make good grades. What mattered was that he was Max, a kid like any other one of us, and the tragedy was in the loss of life... regardless of which. I'm glad you were able to see that.

on Jul. 15 2015 at 10:43 pm
theblondechick GOLD, Kingsport, Tennessee
14 articles 0 photos 105 comments

Favorite Quote:
I want to live and feel all the shades, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.
And I am horribly limited.
-Sylvia Path

ALSO - Sorry I thought of this later and had to come back and praise you for it - you didn't make the boy a sappy, the most-likely-to-succeed-future president figure. You made him a TEENAGE BOY who probably acted stupid, didn't make good grades, and did other teenage boy things. The story is greatly enhanced by that. The realness of him. Okay, now I'm done

on Jul. 15 2015 at 10:21 pm
theblondechick GOLD, Kingsport, Tennessee
14 articles 0 photos 105 comments

Favorite Quote:
I want to live and feel all the shades, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.
And I am horribly limited.
-Sylvia Path

Extremely touching and heartfelt. I became quite emotional midway through, which is words I do not toss around lightly. The beginning - how it began like a conversation - was entirely clever. Beautiful story!

on Jul. 15 2015 at 9:28 pm
lilycalla16 SILVER, Lisle, Illinois
6 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Freely we serve, Because we freely love, as in our will to love or not; in this we stand or fall."
-John Milton

I absolutely loved how you began this

--Em-- GOLD said...
on May. 12 2015 at 7:40 am
--Em-- GOLD, Grand Rapids, Michigan
15 articles 0 photos 32 comments
This was a beautiful piece. It was touching and came from the heart. The beginning was a bit perplexing, but I think it added to the overall effect.

HudaZav SILVER said...
on May. 7 2015 at 4:50 pm
HudaZav SILVER, Toronto, Other
8 articles 6 photos 392 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Nothing is impossible; the word itself says 'I'm possible'!" -Audrey Hepburn

This made me so emotional, oh my goodness. I love the flow of your writing and the prespective in which you describe these events. Keep it up! :D

Beila BRONZE said...
on Apr. 15 2015 at 7:54 pm
Beila BRONZE, Palo Alto, California
3 articles 0 photos 519 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." -Mark Twain

Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback. The beginning is, in fact, a conversation between me and my mom, who found out about Max's death from her Facebook wall right as I came home from school. I agree; that definitely should have been better clarified, but I am also glad that you appreciated the rest of the piece. :) Thanks again!

on Apr. 14 2015 at 10:22 pm
WritinGirl PLATINUM, DeKalb, Illinois
20 articles 0 photos 78 comments

Favorite Quote:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Maya Angelou

That was really great. It was heartfelt, it was deep, and it was unique. I didn't know how it was going to turn out, because of the style you wrote it with, when i started reading it, but instead of turning me away, it drew me in. Great job! I'm still a little confused after the beginning. Maybe you could clarify if you're talking to someone, or saw something about Max, somewhere in the text. But honestly, you did a really amazing job. I'm glad I read it!

A-C-Y BRONZE said...
on Apr. 12 2015 at 6:14 am
A-C-Y BRONZE, New Taipei City, Other
2 articles 0 photos 25 comments
Gosh, this made me teary-eyed. I love the way you expressed your emotions and how your writing pulls the reader into the situation, feeling almost the exact way you did. You did an excellent job and I hope to read more of your work!! ;)

on Apr. 6 2015 at 3:13 am
BeautyWhispers PLATINUM, Nevada City, California
21 articles 0 photos 98 comments

Favorite Quote:
Be Yourself, Be Unique, Be Me. :) - By BeautyWhispers

Great! Loved it! It was perfectly enjoyable, the power and intensity behind each soluble was incredible. Great job!


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