This card generally does not refer to physical death.
The Death card says, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life. It is also the last day of the first part of your life."
In some early (pre-1909) decks, such as the Tarot of Marseilles (pictured here), the word "Death" wasn't printed on the card the idea being that death was too terrible a word to be written or spoken. In
the Tarot of the Old Path, this card is "The Close."
"As with an atomic explosion, disintegration is necessary for the release of energy." You have to die before you can be reborn.
The sun in the background is a rising sun (we are told), not a setting sun.
The two pylons in the background (in the Universal Waite version, above left) show up again in
the Moon card.
The Tarot of Prague deck contains two different Death cards: one shows Death in armor riding a horse, and the other shows Death as a robed skeleton.
The image of Death riding a white horse comes from Revelation 6:8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."