In Southern California we are famous for our entertainment. We make stories. We make movies and television shows, and each of them has a plot. Each has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Before the credits roll, we get to see the resolution of the drama or the punchline of the comedy. The director, the cast and the crew are all about the task of tying up of the loose ends. Their movie will be judged a success or a failure depending on how well it brings closure.

The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov set down the ironclad rule: "If in the first act you’ve hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there."

If only life could be as neat as our Hollywood movies.

Alas, it’s not, and sometimes we find ourselves confronting the death of a family member or friend, knowing that we’ve left important things unsaid and undone. I find that this is an almost universal condition among those who grieve. They wish they could have one more day to make that intended visit. They wish they had one more chance to say “I love you” or “Thank you.”

I feel that way myself in times of loss and that’s why I’m so grateful for our biblical faith. My heritage is Jewish, and Russian Jews have a rich tradition of prayer for the dead. They recite the Kaddish and El Maleh Rachamim, and these give believers a way of moving forward, in spite of all apparent difficulty, toward resolution. Addressing the Almighty, the mourners approach God on behalf of their deceased loved ones: "Have mercy upon him; pardon all his transgressions. … Shelter his soul in the shadow of your wings. Make known to him the path of life."

This has always been the way of biblical religion. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament assure us that the souls of our dead “are in the hand of God” (Wisdom 3:1). In the Second Book of Maccabees, we see such assurance in action. Upon discovering that their fellow soldiers had committed serious sins, Judah and his companions “prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out” (2 Maccabees 12:42).

How much more should we, as Christians, experience the consolation of prayer for the dead. We believe that “life is changed, not taken away” at death. The final breath does not mean the end of the relationship.

We can pray for the dead. We can have Masses said for them. We can visit their graves and reminisce about them — and entrust them to Jesus. The departed can benefit from our actions even more now than they could while they were on earth.

God does not leave us in suspense. He does not make promises He cannot keep. God made us to understand our life in terms of stories, and he does not frustrate us with irresolution.

Through His Church he gives us the great feasts of the coming week, All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2, which many Latinos celebrate as Día de los Muertos). These are times to remember our dead in a special way and commend them to God.

These feasts are a tremendous mercy that God gives to all of us who grieve. Please don’t waste the opportunity! Make the most of them. Go to Mass. On November 2, you might even go more than once! Visit the graves of those you love. Make your prayers, and tie up all the loose ends.

And count on my prayers. I pray that you’ll know the consolation God wants to give you (see Matthew 5:4).