My mother was alive. She smiled, she laughed, she impacted.

Alumni Wisdom

On the Theme: Loss vs. Lost by Jacki W.

Jacki & Mom Dancing in the Rain

Jacki & Mom Dancing in the Rain

I have always found a great deal of comfort in the law of conservation of matter. This concept, in its simplest form, states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. I find this fundamental physical law phenomenally elegant.
When my mother passed away, I heard the phrase I’m sorry for your loss repeatedly. It made sense at the time. My mother was certainly no longer physically present. I couldn’t see her smile, I couldn’t hear her laugh, I couldn’t hold her hand or have a conversation with her. She was, absolutely, out of the range of my senses. Her absence permeated my life. And so, I thought, she was lost.
But I could still feel her. I can still feel her. The term “lost” is defined as something that has been taken away and cannot be recovered. Based on this definition, and based on how I feel, I refuse to brand my mother as “lost.”
The law of conservation of matter informs us that the contents of the universe cannot be lost. It may take different form, it may move, but nothing is truly lost to us. Perhaps the universe is just a chaotic jumble of energy or perhaps it follows a more meaningful pattern. Regardless, I choose to interpret the laws that govern it in a way that does not allow for absolute loss.
My mother was alive. She smiled, she laughed, she impacted. I do not believe that an energy like that could ever really be lost. So to address loss, yes I’ve experienced it; my mother is no longer physically with me. But she’s not lost to me. Her essence is still very much present.

– Jacki Westenmark



My name is Jacki Westermark. I am a 19 year old student at the University of Washington and member of the Family Lives On Alumni Advisory. When I was 9 my mother passed away from cancer. I was benefited by Family Lives On. Every year they helped me recreate a tradition that I once held with my mother. Family Lives On has had an incredible impact in my life and I know it can do the same for so many others.

For more information about The Tradition Program or to fund a tradition go to 



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