March 2, 2017 5:22 AM EST

For 36 years, Bill Paxton, who died Feb. 25 at age 61, was one of my closest friends. It was a friendship that went far beyond our work together on movies like Terminator, Aliens, Titanic and True Lies. He ultimately acted in over 60 films, as well as many TV movies and series, including his critically acclaimed Big Love. All his characters were aspects of Bill the man: his humor, his decency, his rebellious spirit, his strong moral principles, his sense of the outrageous.

Even now, after his long and celebrated career, one of Bill’s most memorable characters remains one of his earliest: Private Hudson in Aliens. His wail “It’s game over, man!” is as funny and human today as it was 31 years ago. The night before the heart surgery that led to his death, we had what was to be our last conversation. Bill was upbeat; he even joked about feeling like Hudson and its being “game over.” Tragically, for him, it was.

With all of Bill’s gusto for life, his pure joy in the human experience, it’s difficult for me to process that he’s gone. The world seems quieter. Less filled with spirit. But I take solace that through his vast body of work, Bill lives on in the afterlife of cinema.

Cameron is an Oscar-winning director, writer and producer of movies including Terminator, Titanic and Avatar

This appears in the March 13, 2017 issue of TIME.

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