Jessa Roquet teaches us all about serotinous skin and living and dying with grace

This week we say goodbye to a well-loved and talented member of the music community, Jessa Roquet, aka Gambler’s Daughter. Our hearts break for her three daughters and the rest of her family. I am thankful that our paths crossed. I learned so much from her unfailing energy, positivity and focus on family.

We first spoke to Jessa in February 2020 when she was a guest on the Mostly MN Music radio show at the WMCN studio. (The video below is from that interview.) It was a month before the world shut down with the pandemic and a month before she was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer.  She was coming off a tumultuous year personally but was releasing her last album Serotinous Skin. She was powerful and enthusiastic.

The name of her album struck me then and it strikes me even more now. She described it as her unique take on rebirth through the idea of serotinous skin – like a pine cone in a forest fire that survives to spread seeds and sprout new trees. It has been heart wrenching to watch Jessa’s health decline in the last year yet heart-warming to watch how new form in her shadow.

Musicians around Minnesota gathered around Jessa to raise funds for medical and life costs and support her in many other ways. They created Quarantine Dream, a unique collaborative album of Minnesota musicians to benefit for Jessa. The project started with Ted Hajnasiewicz and Ryan Rud (of Frequency Collisions); they wanted to create a way to collaborate during the pandemic. In the end 45 musicians joined the venture. Some knew Jessa well, some had not met her. It didn’t matter; her reputation as a caring and joyous person, as well as her sweet yet powerful voice drew people to the project.

Through the project many new friendships and musical partnerships were formed like new trees in the forest. We spoke to most of the performers on the album, including a session with Jessa, Ted, Ryan and Adam Levy (who sang a duet with Jessa on the album). She was undergoing treatment in Mexico at the time. It was a glimpse as Jessa’s poise and grace. To hear her appreciate the work of the musicians and talk about crying as each song was released, touched by the music and the gesture.

Off camera we spoke about her daughters, in part because we both have three. It takes a tough woman to have three daughters, especially during the teen years and admittedly that is not the side of Jessa I knew best but she loved her kids, their independence and their talents. She enjoyed every minute together. She made decisions based on her strongest desire to be there for as long as she could for them. Her daughters are the proudest result of her serotinous skin.

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