The black gate:
When I have my players come and meet Death, I often have a kind of Norse feel to it. Kind of like Valhalla or Sovngarde in Skyrim, I have it almost seem pleasant. Something like a large dining table with all of one’s kin feasting and beckoning the PC to come to their final resting place. In this way, when the player doesn’t end up dying for good it is almost like Death is actually being withholding to the PC; like being alive is the worse consequence.
Who wouldn’t want to leave a life of strife and constant toil to sit among the ancient brethren?
What if instead of making a deal with death to stay alive, Death denied the eternal bliss of the Black Gate until the player did something worthy of it?