Monday, January 28, 2008

Tribute To A Friend

Truly he was the teacher and I was his student!
Rest in peace sweet Yuto. Until we meet again!

Most of my friends today will be blogging about the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who passed away last night at the age of 97, but I want to play a little catch-up on my blog and first pay tribute to one of my students who was killed in a car accident on Thursday, January 17th and then passed away on last Monday, January 21, 2008.

Yuto and Taiki sailing in Boston over Fall Break 2007
Needless to say, the last few weeks have been long. As many of you know that read my blog on a regular basis, I have the privilege of teaching many of the International students here at UNK. Each summer we get between 50-60 new Japanese students through a program called, "NCN." In the summer of 2006, one of the students who came to study at UNK was Yuto Yamamoto. He was a very shy and quiet student. Something about him made me smile each time I saw him and I really learned to love him. As the years have gone by, Yuto continued taking classes from me. He needed to pass the TOEFL with a score of 500 before he could officially transfer to UNK as a full-time student. At the end of the spring semester in 2007, Yuto passed the TOEFL and last fall started taking UNK classes. He had just finished his first semester as a full-time UNK student and decided to go home to Japan for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. On January 17th he returned to Nebraska and was picked up by another UNK student, Jose Mendez. As they were traveling to Kearney from Lincoln, their car went out of control and crossed over the middle of the interstate and they were hit by a semi-truck. Jose was killed instantly and Yuto was transported to Lincoln, NE, to a hospital there.

Edress and Yuto at the International Food Festival--March 2007

We were told that Yuto would probably not make it through the night. On Saturday, one of the other ELI teachers and myself drove to Lincoln to say our "good-byes" to Yuto and to be of comfort to any of the other international students that we could. It was such a sad and yet such a sweet experience. I loved Yuto so much and had grown so fond of his sweet smile and quiet nature.

Yuto with some of his Korean students!

On Sunday Yuto's family arrived from Japan and they then had some "heart wrenching" decisions to make about Yuto and what they would do. Yuto's life support was pulled on Sunday afternoon and the decision to donate his organs was made. Yuto passed away on early on Monday morning. I was so glad that I was able to know him and also get to travel to Lincoln to say goodbye.

On Tuesday, Yuto's family traveled to Kearney to pack up his belongings and to take care of some of the details that needed to happen. That evening the family decided that they would like to have dinner at Carlos O'Kelly's because that was Yuto's favorite restaurant. I had had the strong impression to take a picture I had of Yuto and blow it up and put it in a beautiful silver frame and give it to them. I made my way down to the restaurant about 8:30 PM and ended up staying with them until about 10:00 PM. It was one of the sweetest experiences I have ever had. Yuto's mom speaks very little English and my Japanese is basically non-existent. So we just hugged and I just held her hand most of dinner. She and her husband were so strong and they just kept looking at the picture of Yuto and looking at me and we just smiled. Yuto's younger brother, Yoshi, was also there. He looked so sad. Yuto and he were so close and it must be so hard for him. But, anyway, I am so glad to have the gift of the Holy Ghost in my life that allows me to do things like this, so that others lives might be better.

There was a funeral and a memorial service on Wednesday and Thursday. Yuto was cremated and his mother carried him to both the funeral and to the memorial service. It was like she just couldn't let him go and she needed to have him right there with him. So sweet.

Yuto and a friend practice Taekwando

I will have to write more as I have time! So, good-bye sweet Yuto. Thank you all the lessons you taught me. I was the one who was truly the student and you the teacher. I learned so much and will hopefully be able to continue to learn from your great example.


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Amazed said...

Lovely tribute to your student! What an emotional experience!

Anonymous said...

I read your blog. I was his classmate in jr. and high-school. I just heard the news about him. I can't believe. Yet, I am sure Yuto is resting in peace. Thank you very much for writing this blog.

Yuto, see you later.