Jacques, 86, outside a 9th Avenue pastry shop
RIP Jacques Beaumont, whom I had the pleasure of accompanying to one of his chemo sessions a few months ago. He was engaged with the moment from when I first stepped into the apartment he shared with his husband, until I said goodbye 8 hours later, after a hectic day of a bank stop, chemo session, pastry shop, butcher, grocery store, and four taxis – or was it five?
Monsieur Beaumont, who was of French origin, never stopped talking. He wanted to know about the cab drivers’ lives. The first driver was from Senegal, and Jacques quickly struck up a conversation with him in French. He even got another driver, who was from the middle east and determined not to say a word, to finally open up, just a bit. He knew the butcher on 9th Avenue well, and the owner of the pastry shop, where he treated me to a cappuccino and bought a box of treats for the hospital staff that he planned to take the following day.
What struck me most about Jacques was how completely alive he was, how bright his mind and incandescent his curiosity, remaining by far more interesting, engaged and involved with the world than the vast majority of people I meet or observe. He didn’t need to tweet or blog or immerse himself in himself. He wanted to know about you. And oh, the stories he told! His was a life few of us even dream of, not because we lack the imagination, but because it seemed from the telling just so damned exhausting.
What a joy it was to meet him for one day, to see how much he gave of his spirit to other people, and to know, regardless of how finished our culture is with us as we age, people like Jacques will leave the stage when they are good and ready. I want to be him.
He is survived by his husband Richard Townsend. You can read about them in the New York Times, which details their wedding in the hospital. – Mark McNease/Editor