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?


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.

on Mar. 2 2015 at 6:26 pm
CNBono17 SILVER, Rural, South Carolina
5 articles 0 photos 250 comments

Favorite Quote:
Lego ergo sum (Latin—I read, therefore, I am)
The pen is mightier than the sword—unknown
Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity—1 Timothy 4:12

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 it for a few days before dropping this comment. It's amazing; I'd have to agree with MissEmilyDickinson on this one. To write this, you have to have such a heart, such compassion. God bless:)

on Mar. 2 2015 at 9:54 am
Kestrel135 PLATINUM, Waterford, Connecticut
43 articles 0 photos 256 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Respect existence or expect resistance"

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.

on Mar. 2 2015 at 9:39 am
Kestrel135 PLATINUM, Waterford, Connecticut
43 articles 0 photos 256 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Respect existence or expect resistance"

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 meaningfully. Saying that, there might be a few ways where you could improve your writing. Although you did use a number of great verbs - "...endless words *peppered* with...", "...third page in, *wedged* between..." - there are also many opportunities where stronger verbs could be included. If you can find the right one that portrays emotion as well as specific action, it can greatly improve any piece of writing and replace certain adverbs. Honestly, I'm having a hard time thinking of much else to suggest. This is a wonderful piece of writing. Well done!

Beila BRONZE said...
on Mar. 1 2015 at 12:26 am
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

I'm sobbing. And just for the record, it's been over 24 hours since I first saw your comment in my history class, and I was sobbing then, too. I thought I had composed myself enough to reply... maybe not. You know how you have dreams that you hope to fulfill in your life someday, like saving a person's life in surgery or being at the birth of your grandchild? Well, two of mine were to change someone's life with my writing, and to have someone count my work as one of their "favorite favorites." I'm 17, and you've just hit both life goals for me with this comment. I can't tell you how meaningful it was to me to read your comment--to know that Max's story has changed your life. You've inspired me to write to his parents and invite them to read this piece; I think they would want to know that their son's life made such a beautiful difference in the world. Thank you for quite literally making my dreams come true and for remembering Max with me. :) All I can think to say is, "Stay gold, Ponyboy." :)

Beila BRONZE said...
on Mar. 1 2015 at 12:19 am
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 for the feedback! I appreciate your point on the organization. Do you think that it results from the confused, stream of consciousness voice in this piece (in which case, I do want it to read like I'm not really sure what's going on in my own head), or does it simply detract from the flow?

on Feb. 28 2015 at 1:13 pm
FollowingLeader GOLD, Moline, Illinois
10 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Everything stinks till it's finished," -Dr. Suess

I loved it, especially the gradual unraveling of Max's identity. It really made me think. I like how you're experimenting with your opening. However, If you could try to improve one thing, maybe you could work with your organizational skills a little. Nicely written!

on Feb. 26 2015 at 11:06 pm
EmilytheBelleofA. DIAMOND, Athens, Georgia
81 articles 5 photos 1492 comments

Favorite Quote:
To love is to be vulnerable; Triumph is born out of struggle; We notice shadows most when they stand alone in the midst of overwhelming light.

I know that a few people didn't really like the first few sentences, but the first few sentences of what you wrote, was what first grabbed my attention. Your style of writing is absolutely, truly beautiful and makes such an impact. And what you shared with us was very inspiring and sad and beautiful all the same time, has made such an impact on me. To be honest, I haven't cried yet but tears are starting to gather in my eyes and I know that I'll be crying into my pillow when I go to bed. This has just made such an impact on me, it made me think, it tugged on my heart - it was heartbreaking and beautiful. I'm not sure, but I don't think what you shared with me not only has made a impact on me, but on my life. I know that something has changed and that things are different and will be different now. You are a beautiful, talented and wonderful person and writer, filled with beauty and talent and greatness and light and so much more. You truly are. I hope you know that. :) Thank you so much, my friend, for sharing this! I am so thankful that you asked me to read this and that I said yes, I am just thankful. This is one of my absolute, favorite favorites. And I truly think this deserves to be published, that you deserve to be published for this; and I sincerely wish for this happen and am planning to make this happened. Thank you so much again, @Beila!

Beila said...
on Feb. 26 2015 at 10:11 pm
Thank you! I appreciate what you pointed out about the first few sentences. I barely reviewed this piece at all before submitting it for publication because I was so eager to share Max's story and the impact it had upon my life. I did actually get that exact feedback when I first asked for some early opinions, and I was too in the moment to take it seriously. Thanks for the reminder. :)

on Feb. 26 2015 at 7:22 pm
Dreamer29 SILVER, Atlanta, Georgia
6 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
ew, people

I absolutely love this piece. It is wonderfully written, I didn't like the very first few sentences, but after I had gotten into the story, I barely remembered. It was wonderfully inspiring through a very tragic, heartbreaking incident. Please keep writing, you are lovely at it.

on Feb. 24 2015 at 9:38 am
Ray--yo PLATINUM, Kathmandu, Other
43 articles 2 photos 581 comments

Favorite Quote:
God Makes No Mistakes. (Gaga?)
"I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right." -Liesel Meminger via Markus Zusac, "The Book Thief"

You wrote the whole piece really well, it felt heartfelt, and was saddening at the same time. I hope you keep writing. :)

on Feb. 23 2015 at 10:56 am
AzkaFarooqui BRONZE, Karachi, Other
4 articles 0 photos 8 comments
This is beautifully written! Awesome piece of work. I love the theme. I would love to read more of your works. :)

on Feb. 23 2015 at 9:35 am
Stella_Val_Illicia GOLD, Salt Lake City, Utah
13 articles 0 photos 248 comments

Favorite Quote:
"In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad idea."
--Douglas Adams

I read this late at night, about to take an ibuprofen for my headache and go to sleep... now I'm staring at the ceiling pondering life and death. This has taken my breath away. This is the kind of article that makes people rethink their lives, and it's making me replay my own similar experience in my head from a few years ago. You're really making me think here, and I love it. This broke my heart, and electrocuted my brain. Kudos!

Beila BRONZE said...
on Feb. 21 2015 at 10:50 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! From your comment, I'd say that makes two of us. :) The truth, though, is that there are many more. Yes, there's a lot of hatred and anger, but keep this in mind: We notice shadows most when they stand alone in the midst of overwhelming light.

on Feb. 21 2015 at 2:09 pm
Jtatsu PLATINUM, East Brunswick, New Jersey
26 articles 0 photos 77 comments
@Beila No words can express how grateful I am that there are people like you that can appreciate life like this... Our world is constantly changing, with so much violence, anger, and sadness, but you remind me that even in the midst of it all, there are people who are compassionate, people who care. Thank you.

on Feb. 20 2015 at 6:37 pm
shinebrightxoxo BRONZE, Roslyn, New York
3 articles 0 photos 4 comments
This is absolutely incredible. Inspirational, too. Every word flows together perfectly to create a smooth, vivid piece of writing. There's not a thing that I would change... it's perfect!

Beila BRONZE said...
on Feb. 20 2015 at 6:31 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! I agree, most of my writing could be a little (or a lot) shorter :), so that's something I'll continue to work on as I hopefully get more pieces published very soon! Thanks for the support!

JRaye PLATINUM said...
on Feb. 20 2015 at 6:20 pm
JRaye PLATINUM, Dorr, Michigan
43 articles 10 photos 527 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you."

"Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, 'I just don't care.'?"

This is truly beautiful :) When someone dies, you always here about those people that a honestly heartbroken, those who didn't even know him/her but act like it... And then there are those who WISH they did. I felt like this was very unique and brutally, heartbreakingly honest, which is definitely the right route to go with personal experience pieces. I do feel like it could've been a LITTLE shorter, but all in all it was amazing, touched me in all the right places. I can't wait to read more from you! Welcome to Teenink! :)

MalaikaJ GOLD said...
on Feb. 19 2015 at 1:20 pm
MalaikaJ GOLD, Cloquet, Minnesota
19 articles 2 photos 127 comments

Favorite Quote:
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. - James Michener

This is so inspiring! I loved it. I love how you show how much death affects people, even when we don't know the person. You turned the sadness into a challenge to live better. Great job!

Larkin SILVER said...
on Feb. 19 2015 at 1:13 pm
Larkin SILVER, Santa Rosa, California
8 articles 0 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Our remedies oft in ourself do lie, which we ascribe to heaven."
-William Shakespeare

Wow. That was beautiful, so inspiring, and strangely uplifting. Your message cam across so clearly; I think this will stay in my mind all day. You did an amazing job.

yanka said...
on Jan. 28 2015 at 2:40 am
nora, great writing. Made me cry. I have a son like that too you know. It's nice to see him sleeping peacefully in front of me. I grateful everyday for what we have.

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