In Memory

January 16, 2015
Custom User Avatar
More by this author

“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.






Join the Discussion

This article has 61 comments. Post your own now!

Jc543 said...
Aug. 24, 2015 at 11:34 pm
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.
 
Just_A_UsernameThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 23, 2015 at 8:53 am
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... (more »)
 
BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Aug. 23, 2015 at 3:59 pm
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.
 
ellwist said...
Aug. 21, 2015 at 7:58 am
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... (more »)
 
BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Aug. 21, 2015 at 8:21 pm
Thank you! And keep your eyes out for it--it's coming! ;)
 
Meital.S This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 18, 2015 at 2:35 pm
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.
 
kataangfan126This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Aug. 13, 2015 at 7:26 pm
i really love your writing style. It flows so well, and is so original and touching.
 
BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Aug. 14, 2015 at 3:58 pm
Thank you!
 
futurista12This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 12, 2015 at 11:13 am
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.
 
SkippyPeanutbutter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 31, 2015 at 9:18 am
I really love the perspective of this story! It's super original and gripping.
 
theblondechick This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 15, 2015 at 10:43 pm
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
 
BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Jul. 16, 2015 at 8:55 pm
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.
 
theblondechick This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 15, 2015 at 10:21 pm
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!
 
lilycalla16 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 15, 2015 at 9:28 pm
I absolutely loved how you began this
 
Anneke said...
May 12, 2015 at 7:40 am
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.
 
HudaZavery said...
May 7, 2015 at 4:50 pm
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
 
WritinGirl said...
Apr. 14, 2015 at 10:22 pm
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!
 
BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Apr. 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm
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!
 
A-C-Y said...
Apr. 12, 2015 at 6:14 am
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!! ;)
 
The_DoctorDonna said...
Apr. 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm
I really love this. I don't know how to say how I'm feeling, because everyone else has already said it. Amazing job. Thank you for this :)
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback