In Memory

January 16, 2015
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“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. Post your own now!

love-abigail This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 28, 2015 at 1:54 pm
I loved this and it was written amazingly. You show the emotions so well and I'm in love with your writing.
 
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...
Mar. 29, 2015 at 12:05 am
Aww, thank you! :)
 
Elliot. said...
Mar. 23, 2015 at 4:09 pm
This whole piece is very well written! I think it goes through the process of how you grieved for this stranger Max very well. I can relate--I did the same thing when one of my classmates died, though I knew her better than you knew Max because she was actually in one of my classes.
 
laurenevansok said...
Mar. 20, 2015 at 5:53 am
This is very well written and I enjoyed reading it. I was intrigued as to how it would end, due to this happening to you in reality I feel more empathy towards your situation. Very saddening and well constructed! A joy to read!
 
gracefulwaters said...
Mar. 19, 2015 at 1:24 pm
That was really well written and touching and sad. Only thing I noticed is that the beginning is a little bit awkward the way it's formatted. Otherwise, your article is perfect and I love it.
 
MysticMusic This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 15, 2015 at 6:20 pm
Well, I feel like crying now, and the fact that this is non-fiction makes it all the more sorrowful. This is an amazing piece and I loved every last word, especially your writing style. How you wrote at the beginning as if you were talking to someone, but only your words are given. And the descriptions of you frantically looking through his Facebook history for the traces of his existence. That quote of his was just perfect with everything else you wrote. I'm honestly really surprised this didn'... (more »)
 
LoloG said...
Mar. 13, 2015 at 7:17 pm
This is written perfectly, with just the right amount of sadness to pull on the heartstrings. It was very moving, and it made me feel as if I was the narrator, and if I was needing to be satisfied with what I had, and not counted the days. I loved this so much!
 
EttieGH said...
Mar. 10, 2015 at 2:44 am
This is amazing. I can really relate to the need to connect to someone who was struck by a tragedy. It is really well written too. It puts the reader in the shoes of the narrator. Its true, sometimes we just pass our days by with no emotions and we never really think about our future. We don't think about whether or not we'd be satisfied with our lives if we just died one day. This is going into favourites.
 
WOWriting said...
Mar. 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm
Beautiful. That longing to go back, to change and resolve and fix when it is just too late is something so relatable. I love your writing, it is so moving. Simple and beautiful i love it!!
 
Sharkbait said...
Mar. 8, 2015 at 9:50 pm
This was unbelievable. It's really humbling... that any day could be your last. I totally agree with all of the comments, and I feel like you brought up a really good point that there are so many people that come in to this world and leave with no one to remember them... Thank you for sharing your story of Max, and I hope we can all remember him... as well as all of the other people like him that are forgotten in this world. Keep writing, you're great at 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...
Mar. 9, 2015 at 1:03 am
Thank you, for your compliments, and for remembering... him, and as you so correctly pointed out, every other person I don't know for whom this was nevertheless also written. All of the above means a lot to me. :)
 
StarGazer9 said...
Mar. 7, 2015 at 3:11 pm
I just wish everyone could read this. It'd remind them of so many things that are so easily forgotten.
 
Leah S. said...
Mar. 3, 2015 at 11:00 am
Beautiful! I wish so bad there could be a sequel where she remembers a scene of them meeting (either good or bad) or maybe he didn't die and ti was someone else and comes to visit her, or maybe she has a dream that that happens. Anyways I'm always thinking of sequels . . . and happy endings, sometimes you just have to face reality. And I love the last paragraph, and the part where it said count the days/make the days count. Is this a true story?
 
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...
Mar. 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Sadly, there is no sequel because she is me, and Max is gone. And I never got to meet him. This story is true from the first word to the last, from the conversation I had with my mom when I found out, to Max's Instagram pictures, to the quote he reposted a few months ago. I wish I could have said I remember him. It's just not the truth. The real sequel is this comment thread, people remembering a kid they never knew because every person deserves to be remembered. Thanks to you all.
 
ShagunThis 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...
Mar. 3, 2015 at 2:07 am
Lovely, moving and deep. I could I nothing more of a piece. Loved it from the beginning to the end. Keep up the good work. P.S - for some reason, it feels slightly reminiscent of Hazel scrolling through Augustus's Facebook
 
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...
Mar. 3, 2015 at 4:17 am
The highest honor... I love that scene, as I do practically any moment in their lives. To even remind you slightly of them is just beyond... Have they invented a more gratitude-conveying phrase than "THANK YOU!!!" yet?
 
CNBono17 said...
Mar. 2, 2015 at 6:26 pm
Beautiful and eloquent and powerful and infinitely deeper than the first line suggests. This piece has a profound message, a message that seems lost in our world of convenience and materialism. It's the kind of message that's lacking in our culture, the kind that makes you stop and think about what's really important. And it hits home personally, because a girl at my school just lost a battle with cancer. Seriously, I read this first about a week ago, just after I found out, and had to sleep on ... (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...
Mar. 2, 2015 at 6:36 pm
I'm sending you hugs. It's too hard to lose... the least we who are left can do is prove to the world that their lives mattered... and hope that one day, someone will say the same of our own. Stay strong.
 
Kestrel135This 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...
Mar. 2, 2015 at 9:39 am
This piece was equally as beautiful as it was powerful! You writing has a wonderful fluency that weaves the action, emotion, and details together perfectly, making it hard to stop reading. The concept alone is deeply emotional, which can be hard to write, but you portrayed the impact and affect the event can have on a person perfectly. By the end, I was tearing up. The conclusion is simply beautiful, and I think will inspire other readers as it inspired me to live life just that more meaningfull... (more »)
 
Kestrel135This 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. replied...
Mar. 2, 2015 at 9:54 am
Skimming the other comments below and holding this piece of writing in mind, it's unmistakable that not only are you a great writer, but a great person. Recognizing the beauty in everything is such a simple and powerful moral - one that I try to live by - and hearing such words spoken by so many lifts my heart. Thank you for bringing me to this writing and to the small community of thoughts that has gathered because of it.
 
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