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I've been watching many of the news broadcasts and special reports being aired recently detailing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I've been amazed and saddened by the sheer enormity of the death and destruction all along the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans and Biloxi.

Although I've always wanted to visit, I've never been to either city (although I did fly over both a couple of Christmases ago for a family holiday in Pensacola, Florida; the condos we stayed in then have also since been destroyed by a hurricane).  A journey to the "Big Easy" for Mardi Gras has long been on my travelling to-do list; I'm more interested in the city's musical heritage and early history than in the drinking and other debauchery along Bourbon Street, however.

Other than listening to some of New Orleans' great music (I've long been a fan of artists like Dr. John, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and Louis Armstrong, among others), I only have one tenuous link to the area: a high school friend of my sister's lived there at one point (I have no idea if she still does).  Also, I just found out that Ian Mosley — the drummer for Marillion — has a daughter who lives in New Orleans; she left during the pre-storm evacuations.

Yes, the devastation is tremendous and the aftermath — particularly the images of all those people stranded on the highway overpasses dying under the hot sun — has been tugging at my heartstrings.  You can hear the desperation in their voices as they describe the futility of their situation.  You want to go help but you know it's best remain where you are so not to get in the way and add to the problems.  My thoughts and prayers do go out to all of the victims — both direct and indirect (the entire country will be feeling the effects of this disaster for quite some time).  I do plan to donate some rice and canned goods, perhaps a bit of cash as well.

In the midst of all of the heart-rending footage, I was very impressed with ABC's Nightline program tonight.  Rather than adding to the footage of flooded cities, flattened houses, and rooftop rescues they interviewed four well-known citizens of New Orleans about what the city means to them.  The show ended with Wynton Marsalis telling about the traditional jazz funerals while showing footage of a typical procession.

The point — and images — I was left with was how death should be a celebration and not mourned as an ending.  And I decided that, if at all possible, that's the type of funeral I would want for myself:  no sadness, just lots of happy people playing music and dancing in the streets.  I think it's a great ending to a life which would leave little or no room for any remaining sense of loss after the funeral is over.  A nice sentiment, anyway.