Every reader wants a "Happy Ever After" story, right? Not exactly. Most readers want reality, even when reading fiction. Death is an integral part of reality, albeit extremely difficult for reasons beyond explanation, but let's not forget that there is also beauty in death. The end of a character's life in a novel (regardless of the point in which it occurs) reminds us how important his or her life was to the story and to the characters within the story. For example, it is no secret that in Losing London cancer takes the life of London Adams. Just read the synopsis or the very beginning of the novel and you'll unveil this bit of sad news. However, read the rest of the story to discover the beauty in London's death . . . her life . . . her story.
Many of the stories that we remember the most and that have the biggest impact on our lives involve tragedy to some degree. Stories like Romeo and Juliet, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Notebook instantly come to mind. Ultimately, I believe most readers want a surprise ending. Sometimes that includes tears, sometimes it doesn't, but as it is in real life most endings are bittersweet. It is our perspective that defines how the story affects us. Death reminds us to be thankful for every breath we breathe, every relationship we encounter, and every moment that defines our life . . . our story.
The end of a book is never the end of a story. The death of a character is never the end of that character's story. A great story always remains . . . because of the life that was lived.