In the Light

Sarah Rodriguez

October 23, 1978- June 24, 2023

Family is a strange sometimes indefinable thing and yet without it we are tragically alone. For all practical purposes I have no immediate family. That’s just the way it is and it’s water under the bridge. When I married Vanessa all of a sudden I found myself a part of a large and incredibly dynamic family group. Being in the orbit of the Gagnés has made me feel that indeed I am a part of something bigger than myself.

In the early 90’s Vanessa’s niece Sarah came to live with us for a while when we were still at the old farm on Kingsbury Road. She was luminous in a way that only fifteen year old girls can be. She certainly brought a little sunshine to Hillside Farm.

That time would end and she would continue her journey to womanhood. Some years later Vanessa and I would run into Sarah in California with Carlos, the man who would be her husband and the father of her two children. Another generational family saga was beginning.

I was not behind the curtain of Sarah and Carlos’ life but Vanessa’s clan is strong on family ties so if I kept my ears open around the house I could tune into their collective evolution. As a much older guy it thrills me to see lives being built, and Sarah and Carlos built quite a life.

Saturday the 24th of this 6th month of June, 2023 I was to play at One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine. Vanessa’s older sister Robin showed up backstage before the show as I expected she would. What I did not expect was Robin’s first words. ‘Sarah just died.’ In that moment it was impossible to wrap my head around. I don’t think I could really hear what had just been said. It had been some time since a saw Sarah but at this point in my life time compresses itself and it seemed like yesterday.

She was at the gym and a massive brain aneurism put a sudden finale to that story. Of course, as an organ donor in the end Sarah was able to pass life on to others. She was that kind of person.

The tragedy of losing a mother, a sister, a wife… a friend is always truly unthinkable yet there are no options on this plane we are allowed to choose. We get what we are given.

This morning she will be finally allowed to sleep.

In my memory she will always be fifteen… the way she was that summer of 1994.

Fair winds and following seas little sister.


  1. Comment made on July 14, 2023 by Red Hopkins

    Thanks for the post to remind us all of the ones we love, and how precious life is…

    I’m sorry for your loss of Sarah.

    I’m reminded how special it is, having been blessed to be part of the FPR family over the years…

  2. Comment made on July 4, 2023 by Paul Wasserman

    I am so dreadfully sorry to learn this. So young and so luminous.
    May she and all of you know peace in this sorrowful time. 🙏🙏🙏

  3. Comment made on June 28, 2023 by Kevin Falvey

    Sorry for your loss, Jorma.


  4. Comment made on June 28, 2023 by Pops

    Oh my, i dont have the words to express my sorrow to you and family vanessa. Peace

  5. Comment made on June 28, 2023 by Joey Hudoklin

    My condolences Jorma & Vanessa😔may she rest in peace.

  6. Comment made on June 28, 2023 by Ham Neggs

    Thank you for mentioning organ donations. May your grief be good. Words often fall short, Love and Light to family and friends
    Peace✌🏻️❤️Love All Ways🔥🚲🌹🙏🏻🖖🏼

  7. Comment made on June 28, 2023 by Ham Neggs

    Thank you for mentioning organ donations. May your grief be good.
    Peace✌🏻️❤️Love All Ways🔥🚲🌹🙏🏻🖖🏼

  8. Comment made on June 27, 2023 by Paul

    Beautifully written as always. So sorry for your loss. My love to you, Vanessa and all the people who knew and loved Sarah.

  9. Comment made on June 27, 2023 by Lady Robin

    Thank you Jorma!
    She was special
    You are too
    Family is Everything!

  10. Comment made on June 27, 2023 by West K Ray

    So sorry to read this …… I was at the show in Portland that you mentioned above. It was a remarkable performance made even more so by the fact you were able to go on and play after learning this. My condolences to you and your family

  11. Comment made on June 27, 2023 by Bill from Wisconsin

    So sad. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the family.

  12. Comment made on June 27, 2023 by Kevin

    My condolences to Vanessa and the entire Gagne/Kaukonen family. What a terrible blow it must have been to hear news that out of the blue. By the picture you posted you can see the light in her eyes, she must have been a special young lady.

  13. Comment made on June 27, 2023 by Philip Nola

    My sincere condolences to your family and to all who loved Sarah . May she sleep in peace .

  14. Comment made on June 27, 2023 by Tom in St. Louis

    This is terribly sad. Our condolences to Sarah and all her family. Jorma, you may be short on immediate family members, but there are many, many people who love you, scattered all over the USA and the world. We always keep you in our hearts, even though we may be far away. Tom & Patrice

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