But it recently occurred to me that I left out something important: how Max's brothers and sisters view him. Natalie - now my oldest living child - wrote and delivered at his funeral this moving tribute to the brother taken too soon from them:
It's impossible to sum up what it was like to live with Maxwell. Your first true friends are your siblings, and Max was a friend to all of the Romeo kids for as long as we can remember. He was always a few steps ahead of us in life, serving as an example and a role model and a mentor for the oldest kids to the youngest.
I myself have so many memories of Max, both good and bad, that it's hard even to know where to begin. From the very beginning of my life he was a fixture, someone who was always there and always had a huge part in my life. We had so many similarities which caused lots of competition and plenty of clashes between us, but also served to draw us closer to each other over the years. We had the same tastes in books, entertainment, and music (mostly); while I was never as big on video games as he, I attribute my current interest and appreciation of them to Maxwell. He was the only person who had read almost everything I had, often several days or weeks before me, and we would often find ourselves deep in conversation and speculation about the happenings of any given series we both had read.
Unfortunately, we also had our conflicts. Max and I shared the same stubbornness, the same confrontational qualities that had us at each other's throats more than a few times. While many of our other siblings would do as he said or quietly complain about him during his bossier moments, I found myself shouting to his face, and he would shout right back. I often thought that this would be the time I didn't forgive him, and then we would be back to being best friends only a short time later. And despite our differences, Maxwell was always very protective of me, even going so far as to offer violence to my first admirer when Max was only 12 years old.
Maxwell was my first true best friend, and he remained so as time went on, even as more siblings entered our family and he began to move on with his life. I didn't see much of him over this summer, and I found myself missing him several times, if only so I could tell him about a book I had read or a movie I had watched, and hear his experiences in return. The few times he was home were a joy, even if I didn't spend much time talking during them as much as he told the rest of us everything he had to tell. It's hard knowing that no more memories like these will be made with him at their center (he always had to be at the center of everything), but it will make me cherish the ones I have even more.
From Maxwell's other siblings, more memories have been gleaned, providing a small picture of what Max meant to each of his brothers and sisters.
Maxwell was always a step or two above Benjamin at everything. He was better at video games, swordfighting, board games, etc. Anything that Ben enjoys doing is because Max got him interested in it first. Max got him interested in LEGOs, board games, video games, outside activities, swordfighting, on and on. Anything Ben likes to do, Max was there first.
Max always turned to SadieAnn for how to do something in the kitchen, even though he was the older one. He recognized that she had more knowledge in the kitchen, and he wasn't afraid to ask for her help or advice on anything where she had more experience.
Jacob recalls that Max was always superior in everything he did. He wasn't the least shy in any situation, and always had a solution to everything. He was always confident and in control. Jacob admired that, and looked up to Maxwell a lot for most of the things that he did.
Olivia knows that Max was often bossy, but he was also kind and helpful, and he took care of the younger kids all the time. He was the best big brother she could ever have hoped for.
Hannah remembers Maxwell always being confident and in charge of every situation. Whenever the family was in public and people spoke to the children, Max was always the one who did the talking for them. All the kids followed him in whatever he did.
Max wanted to teach Calvin how to shoot a pistol. He kept talking about it, even though usually he was too busy to do it most of the time. Calvin still wants to learn how to shoot a pistol of his own, so he can remember Maxwell. Max always took care of Calvin like an older brother should.
Max always told Ariel what to do, and sometimes she thought that was bossy, but she remembers that he took care of her and helped her with things that she couldn't do by herself.
Maxwell adored Lucy, and he loved to hold her and cuddle her just as much as everyone else did. Sometimes when he had been away for days on end she would refuse to let him hold her as “punishment” for his leaving her for so long, but she would always relent in the end. She loved to play with his jewelry, and she would joyfully shout his name and come running into his arms whenever he came home. Max was her treasured big brother.
Maxwell was beloved by every one of his siblings. He acted as a friend, a teacher, a helper, even a parent at times. He touched every one of his brothers and sisters in different – yet often similar – ways. He will be deeply missed.