I LOVE the death penalty in minecraft. I also love that you can't move your spawnpoint without hacking.
To me it feels less like you're respawning and more like the "new you" is your offspring taking over where you left off.
This got me thinking, if you're going to insist on achievements, perhaps you could do it in this manner. Instead of a list of grey-ed out achievements to be checked off let there be a running chronicle of the achievements in each life cycle and also records the failures as well, especially the details of death. The idea being that this chronicle spans the "generations" of the player and gives a history of his sucesses and failures.
What I'm thinking of is a book in game that you could imbue with the ability to automatically record these events.
There's a million great stories made in minecraft every day, it would be great if there was a way to have a record of them.
I suppose some of the achievements would be how far you traveled, how high you climbed or low you mined, how many critters you killed, how much damage you survived, how many structures you crafted (how the hell would you measure this in game btw?) and obviously the mining and crafting milestones(first time mined, crafted, first full stack).