Jamie Mussack was a friend of mine. He was older than me, and we attended the same high school and college. Jamie was a great singer, a fine actor and an award winning drummer.
Here is episode four of the series:
Here is episode eight in the series:
Jamie was always funny, ready to help and he had a non-stop energy that wore out everyone around him. Nobody had more dedication to purpose than Jamie Mussack.
The everlasting memory I have of Jamie is, for the few short years I knew him, he was always broken: A wrist, a finger, an ankle. Those injuries always kept him away from his joys. He couldn’t drum with a broken arm, he couldn’t play the piano with a finger in a splint, and he couldn’t march the drumline with his ankle wrapped.
My strangest memory of Jamie is when he showed up at my house one hot summer. His index finger was wrapped in gauze. It had been a year since we wrapped production on the television show and I hadn’t seen him much.
He was in a new used car — a butterscotch Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme — and wanted to go for a quick ride. I was shooting baskets in my backyard. I was shoeless and shirtless but Jamie didn’t care. He wanted me to go with him right then. Right now!
I got into his car and he sped us down my street. He was a little erratic in his driving and after some small talk, things grew quiet when he told me we were going to visit his grandfather in Fremont.
Fremont was an hour and a half car ride away. By the time Jamie told me we weren’t going around the block, but to Fremont, we were already on the highway. He laughed that he’d put one over on me and he gave me the strangest looks as if I were in on some secret he held.
He began to swerve the car back-and-forth on the highway. I told him to slow down and stay in his lane and he laughed at me again. I buckled my seatbelt and decided if things got out of hand, I would have to somehow reach over and turn off the car, take the keys, and try to prevent him from crashing us into a bridge barrier.
When we finally arrived in Fremont and pulled into his grandfather’s driveway, his grandfather was startled to see us.
Jamie introduced me — still shoeless and shirtless and holding a basketball — while he hugged his grandfather.
Then, as fast as we arrived, Jamie waved at his grandfather, shouted goodbye and we were back in his car racing back to Lincoln at high speed.
90 minutes later, Jamie silently dropped me off at my house and peeled away after I got out of the car.
The experience was strange and numbing. I don’t know what Jamie really had planned for that day, but I knew it would be unwise to get into a car with him again.
Several years later, I was waiting for an early morning music class at the university to start and Jamie bounced into the auditorium room, his arm in a cast again, and sat right next to me. I was happy to see him looking so good and he talked non-stop as he caught me up on his precocious life.
The bell rang and class started. Jamie leapt from his seat and waved at me as he left the classroom auditorium and that final semiotic of him smiling at me and waving over his shoulder is the final moment I have of him.
A few months later Jamie Mussack was dead. He’d irrevocably found his own end.
I heard he’d taken his life in his parent’s garage. He turned on his Cutlass Supreme, hooked up a garden hose to his car exhaust, put the other end inside the car with him, and went to sleep forever.
When I learned of Jamie’s death, my first thought was of his terrific parents. They were always kind and joyful and I know they provided for every whim Jamie ever wanted. I knew they were heartbroken and crushed.
Then I thought of Jamie and our strange road trip. I had worked with Jamie and I had spent time with him, but I never really knew him. He seemed to be full of fun and yearning, but there was obviously more depth of darkness than I sensed and it was then I knew there was really no way for anyone to ever really know the suffering mind of another.
We all live in our secret terrors as we try to tame our inner demons. Some of us try to find that end by chasing dragons while others lift their eyes to the heavens for salvation while others still try to achieve self-determination through honesty and the public revelation of sacred wants.
Some say suicide is the ultimate selfish act — but I tend to think differently, because once you make the move to darken your own hand with the ashes of your failures — suicide may be the only release available that doesn’t require ongoing pain and misery. In the idea of the selfish, one becomes selfless and transformed by denying their demons a life beyond their overwhelming torments.
I’m quite certain Jamie Mussack’s family disagrees with me as his demons became their irrevocable and everlasting dismay.