Learning to Die is quite a remarkable essay by Brother David Steindl-Rast.
on awareness of death
In the rule of St. Benedict, the momento mori has always been important, because one of what St. Benedict calls “the tools of good works” – meaning the basic approaches to the daily life of the monastery – is to have death at all times before one’s eyes....it is a seeing of every moment of life against the horizon of death, and a challenge to incorporate that awareness of dying into every moment so as to become more fully alive.
on purpose and meaning
With purposes, we must be active and in control. We must, as we say, “take the reins,” “take things in hand,” “keep matters under control,” and utilize circumstances like tools that serve our aims....But matters are different when we deal with meaning. Here it is not a matter of using, but of savoring the world around us. In the idioms we use that relate to meaning, we depict ourselves as more passive than active: “It did something to me”; “it touched me deeply”; “it moved me.”
Life, if it isn’t a give and take, is not life at all. The taking corresponds to the active phase, to our “purpose” when we do something; while the giving of ourselves to whatever it is that we experience is the gesture by which meaning flows into our lives. It must be stressed that this is not an either/or; life is not a give or take, but a give and take; if we only take or only give, we are not alive. If we only take breath in we suffocate, and if we only breathe out we also suffocate. The heart pumps the blood in and pumps it out; and it is in the rhythm of give and take that we live.