The Death Card in Tarot is a card that can upset people when they see it. Despite assuring a querent that it doesn't necessarily mean death in a reading, the image itself as it appears on cards is rarely comforting.
A reader will often say that when 'Death' appears it means the end of something, and the positive spin on that sentiment is that it allows something new to happen in its place.
As I mentioned in my recent article pairing tarot cards (which was titled Power Couples) there are a lot of factors involved in interpreting any combinations of cards and I encourage you to read that article if you haven't already done so.
An over-all impression may be had if Death appears next to or near certain cards especially if it's a small spread. If a two or three card reading is given for someone asking about love, work, a house deal, or any number of situations it is sometimes easier to interpret when the Death card appears in the framework of fewer cards or by the cards near it in a more complex spread.
In the top photograph, we have first the image of Death and then the Four of Coins. Now bear in mind that not every tarot deck is a RWS clone and sometimes the imagery of a particular card doesn't jibe with the image we might haves in our memory banks. The four of Coins or Pentacles might be one of these cards. Go with the flow. It makes no sense to recite a meaning of a card when its description suggests an altogether different meaning. In this combination of particular cards, Death really seems to be about rebirth. Something is clearly coming to an end and being followed by something that already has taken root. Something is rising from the ashes. Perhaps the relationship can be salvaged, a company merger is likely to happen and replaced by a new company culture, and maybe the house deal will fall through but another one will present itself.
But sometimes the Death card might actually mean bad news without a new option. In the case of the bottom photo we have the Lady of Wands preceding Death. I think of the court cards in their historic context. The Pages, which is what Lady has replaced in this particular deck, ran the errands and acted as liasons between concerned parties. A Page of Wands might be making reference to work related news. Followed by the Death card, it would be reasonable to suggest to the querent that he brace him or herself for a shocking development that maybe isn't going to float his or her boat. A third card might be pulled for clarification, or if there are other cards in the spread those would have a bearing on further clarifying the issue.
In either case, cool heads must prevail and no querent should walk away feeling doom and gloom. There is always a best possible course of action and that is the responsibility of the reader to impart before the querent walks away.
Other cards in combination with Death can relay these same two possible meanings along with even other possibilities. For the sake of brevity these are the two examples I have chosen.
BTW, I agree that these cards are particularly beautiful and among the more intelligent decks out there. They deserve greater in-depth discussion, particularly as regards their symbolism and I think that is a great topic of discussion for another day.
The The Tarot of The Holy Light and The Alchemical Tarot may be purchased through their respective links.