In Memory

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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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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 »)
 
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 6:32 pm
It takes one to know one. :) Thank you so much for all of the feedback.
 
BeautyWhispers replied...
Apr. 6, 2015 at 3:13 am
Great! Loved it! It was perfectly enjoyable, the power and intensity behind each soluble was incredible. Great job!
 
FollowingLeaderThis 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...
Feb. 28, 2015 at 1:13 pm
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!
 
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. 1, 2015 at 12:19 am
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?
 
MissEmilyDickinson This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 26, 2015 at 11:06 pm
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 ... (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. 1, 2015 at 12:26 am
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... (more »)
 
MissEmilyDickinson This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 5, 2015 at 11:42 am
You're welcome. :) Though, haha, I did nothing but tell the truth. All that I've said, I truly meant it. :) I hope and pray his parents will love the piece that you wrote as much as I did and other did. :)
 
Dreamer29 said...
Feb. 26, 2015 at 7:22 pm
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.
 
Beila replied...
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. :)
 
Ray--yoThis 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...
Feb. 24, 2015 at 9:38 am
You wrote the whole piece really well, it felt heartfelt, and was saddening at the same time. I hope you keep writing. :)
 
AzkaFarooqui said...
Feb. 23, 2015 at 10:56 am
This is beautifully written! Awesome piece of work. I love the theme. I would love to read more of your works. :)
 
AthenaByFortune This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 23, 2015 at 9:35 am
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!
 
JtatsuThis 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...
Feb. 21, 2015 at 2:09 pm
@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.
 
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...
Feb. 21, 2015 at 10:50 pm
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.
 
shinebrightxoxo said...
Feb. 20, 2015 at 6:37 pm
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!
 
JRaye This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm
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 fro... (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...
Feb. 20, 2015 at 6:31 pm
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!
 
MalaikaJ said...
Feb. 19, 2015 at 1:20 pm
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!
 
LarkinThis 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...
Feb. 19, 2015 at 1:13 pm
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.
 
Ninka said...
Jan. 28, 2015 at 1:22 am
Nora, You are such a beautiful writer.. I love how you are able to capture real human emotion
 
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