We, as a human people, are living in strange times. For those of us here at SMU, and particularly in the UHP, the times are also sad ones.
It’s hard to know the best way to remember a classmate, especially one who wasn’t all that well-known among the general student body. I knew Jaime from Introduction to Creative Writing, where, to be frank, he sometimes rubbed people the wrong way. If he thought something was trite or unclear or unexciting or just plain stupid, he’d tell you straight up. That’s something you don’t often encounter in a creative writing workshop, and it could be shocking. But Jaime knew how good writing is done, and once you got over the initial sting you couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of gratitude for his honest, keen, and insightful comments. In fact, Jaime was the person in the class whose opinion you simply couldn’t ignore, and couldn’t do without. At a school where writers—real writers—are hard to come by, Jaime was one of our best, and his loss will be felt for a long time to come.
That’s how I remember Jaime; many others remember him, and miss him, too. I’ll let their words speak for themselves:
Anton Nemirovski said that “more than any other student I’ve met at SMU,” Jaime was the type of person whose “drive and brilliance…bowls you over at first, but then completely inspires you.”
Linda Evans recalled that “Jaime’s playful spirit was in fine form as Halloween approached in Fall 2014, the first semester that he and Taysha began serving as “ESL Volunteers” in one of my courses. They showed up that evening in Halloween costumes (as did I, but theirs were better!) and engaged students in discussion of the holiday traditions…The students adored them both.”
John Ruggio noted that in fiction workshop “you could often see the comment he was going to make before he spoke. He would turn his head sideways and smile, regarding the writer almost like a tiger does its prey, before unleashing a tirade that was sometimes harsh, but never untrue… those writers who would have been in class with him are unfortunate. Because they will never get to experience what it’s like to see Jaime’s heard turn sideways before smiling at them, knowing that they’re about to become better writers.”
Daniel Muehring spoke of how Jaime was “intimidating to a naïve freshman, as he was more than willing to call people out on their half-assed answers or ridiculous theories (myself more than once). This isn’t to say that he was always abrasive, but that he cared about the quality of work being done around him. He was more than willing to talk with you or walk you through an argument if you asked.” Daniel remembers Jaime’s struggles too: “One could see that he struggled with bigger issues that many of us are fortunate enough to never have to consider…It’s immensely easier to ignore the problems afflicting our community than to acknowledge these issues and help. Let us try to do now what we can as a community to improve and seek out help for one another—before the unthinkable happens, rather than afterward.”
Terisha Kolencherry said that Jaime’s “work ethic was almost almost unmatchable, his passion for the Supreme Court was ferocious…But even in his fast pace and determination, there was a gentleness that existed within him. I remember going over to Dr. Kobylka’s house and sitting around in the backyard. We always knew where to find Jaime—with Karl, the dog.” She also recalled how “at his prayer service, his father talked about how for Jaime this world was like a piece of uncomfortable clothing that doesn’t quite fit. I wish that wasn’t the case…If there is an afterlife, I hope Jaime’s there talking to all the Supremes and giving them hell about their constitutional interpretations.”
River Ribas chose to memorialize Jaime in a poem:
You were the only person as nerdy as me in Astronomy freshman year. Now, you’ve graduated to the stars.
and I’m sure you’d slice through that metaphor in workshop but you aren’t here now and there’s no one to smack level-headed sense into my airy work anymore and
I hope you had a chance to listen to Seoul’s song Stay With Us. It sounded like one of the universes you wrote.
Michael Robertson remembered the origin of Jaime’s name, saying that “Jaime was not his real first name…he adopted it because in the French ‘J’aime’ translates as ‘I like’ or ‘I love’…Jaime sacrificed and suffered to love as he wanted and live as he wanted.”
I would echo a sentiment felt by everyone I talked to, and expressly verbalized by Terisha:
“He was one of the best of us, and he will be sorely missed.”
Work is underway to create the Jaime Shim Memorial Scholarship Fund. If you are interested in donating, helping out, or learning more, please contact Michael Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Val Erwin in the Women & LGBT Center at email@example.com.