I read many of the essays in The Best American Essays 2006 and liked what I read. Lauren Slater was the guest editor who had the task of making the final cut from around one hundred essays that had been screened for her. She admits she was dwelling on death a bit, and a lot of the essays at least flirted with that subject. One of my favorites, Grammar Lessons by Michele Morano, deals with a depressing romance, which isn't death but still a downer. (The author now has a book of essays out called Grammar Lessons.)
Oddly enough, I happen to own a copy of The Best American Essays of 1996, which I never read much of because I didn't care for it. I'm going to take another look. Perhaps my tastes have matured in the last ten years. Or at least changed.