Ten years ago I heard of the passing of Anne Osman, my friend and colleague from Casablanca American School, where I worked from 1986-89. Today I came across this piece that I wrote about Anne. It was published on an earlier version of this web site but was somehow lost in the move. This seems like a good time to re-publish it. Special thoughts and best wishes for Anne’s family.
“I respond, therefore I am.” Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, who fled from Hitler’s Germany in 1933, adopted these words as his personal motto.
I have always understood him to mean that, whatever life threw at him, he still retained the ability to respond, and by that response he could preserve and extend his being. By responding in a certain way, he defined who he was.
I was reminded of Rosenstock-Huessy this week when I heard the news that Anne Osman had finally lost her long battle with cancer.
I was lucky to work with Anne at the Casablanca American School from 1986-1989. She was a warm and kind friend, a highly competent and supportive colleague. It was shortly after I left Morocco that Anne was diagnosed with cancer, and the initial reports suggested that she did not have long to live. I don’t think anyone expected her to survive another thirteen years.
But she did much, much more during those thirteen years than merely survive.
Anne exemplified Rosenstock-Huessy’s words better than anyone else I know: it is not our misfortunes that define us, but our response to them. Everything I heard of Anne from my old Casa friends told me that she responded to her cancer magnificently. When I knew Anne she was always modest and self-effacing, and never drew attention to herself. By all reports, she remained so. She continued to work—to serve the CAS community. Her service to others, her courage, tenacity, and dignity inspired everyone who knew her.
Anne was a teacher. Her life teaches us that we are, every one of us, capable of responding with courage, dignity, and determination to the challenges and difficulties that confront us.
She was a teacher, and a teacher’s first job is to inspire her students.
Anne, you have certainly inspired all of us, and we will never forget you.
(6 September 2003)