He was my little film friend. I say that because, as an only child, I have for years imposed my taste for great and obscure cinema on friends and family who really could not have cared less. I first met Jamie Goode nearly two and a half years ago, but I don’t believe I really knew him until the beginning of this past summer, when I was able to spend nearly every day with him and his wonderful sister, Anne. I noticed we had something unusual in common when one day Anne and I picked him up from a friend’s house, and he displayed to us his list of the one hundred finest movies ever made.
This occurrence made me very excited. I studied his list endlessly, compared it to my own, and wrote him a list of film recommendations that I believed to be ‘essential viewing.’ Jamie and I, it seems, both shared the obsession of making lists – top ten movies of the year, top ten favorite actors, twenty-five worst movies of the past five years, you name it.
I remember when Jamie, Anne and I stayed up late one night at her house and watched the great movie Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese). Did I ever believe in my mind that it might not be a wise idea for a thirteen year-old boy to watch such a brutal movie? Jamie answered that question for me almost immediately. He would not watch films such as Raging Bull or Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorsese) and comment on the awesomeness of the violence and rough language; instead, he would talk about the movie in the way a seasoned film critic might talk about the movie – elegantly, with careful attention to everything that made it great and enjoyable.
His comments were not the words of a typical adolescent craving to see an R-rated movie. These were the words of an incredibly mature young man who understood film as literary geniuses might understand literature and poetry.
I cannot emphasize enough Jamie’s ability to unassumingly enter a room of young adults six and seven years his senior, and carry on an intelligent, informed conversation on topics as varied as politics, film and religion for hours. Never once did anyone find it odd that a fourteen year-old boy just out of junior high was hanging in the company of college students.
How do you surmise the entire life of such a human being in a mere obituary? How can the impact and beauty of the life of Jamie Goode be trimmed down to a small article? The truth of the matter is, you could write five hundred textbooks on Jamie Goode, and it still wouldn’t be enough. There could be five hundred textbooks written on my late father, John Kyser, too, and it still wouldn’t even begin to hint at what it was like to know him, to love him.
I wish there had been some sort of foreshadowing that would have prevented Jamie’s death from happening. I went to sleep peacefully last Sunday night, and I remember saying to my roommate in the dark that I was going to sleep very well that night. The next time I opened my eyes, it was to see that I had missed eleven calls on my cell phone. Sometimes death waves a warning flag before he strikes. Not this time.
If I ever have a son, I hope he is one-fourth of the man Jamie Goode was. Is. It is a testament to his indescribable character that I only knew him for such a brief period of time, and yet he feels like the younger brother I never had.
No, we can never resurrect Jamie by writing endlessly about him, because it will never be enough, it will never fully measure the weight of his impact. But Jamie Goode will be remembered. Sixty years from now, his friends will meet at a restaurant and laugh about Jamie’s sense of humor, his indelible intellect, and his endless love and kindness toward his friends and his family. It’s never been the same ever since we lost Jamie Goode, they’ll say, and indeed, it will never be the same. But make no mistake, Jamie will influence the future just as much as he has influenced the past. Nobody will ever forget.
Why did Jamie Goode have to be taken from us? Nobody will ever know. In the words of The Band, “I swear by the mud below my feet, you can’t raise a Cain back up when he’s in defeat.”