It's early and cold as I step onto the black school bus. Yes, school buses with noisy kids tend to shine lemon yellow, but a school bus with a coffin in it turns instantly black.

Yossi, Yefim, and myself sit on one side, two old women sit on the other. The shorter woman repeatedly touches her eyes with a wet handkerchief. I figure it's her husband on the floor between us in the box. And no, we're not going to school.

Thankfully it's a school bus and not a hearse. This way, we're not riding with a dead man; he's getting a ride with us.

Many Russians cremate their dead because it's simpler and cheaper. But to the Jew, cremation is the saddest thing, there's nothing you can do. Eternity has already happened.

Rabbi Moskowitz says, "In the former Soviet Union it's hard to live as a Jew and even harder to die as a Jew." Today, a traditional burial is almost reason for celebration.

Baruch Israelnaya's family cannot afford to bury him in the Jewish way. Rabbi Moskowitz does Baruch a true kindness. I notice that about once a week Baruch shows up with a different name and face, and Rabbi Moskowitz does the same favor each time.

That winter morning is the first time I am asked to help, and I remember sitting on the bus trying to focus on what has to be done, not on what I am doing.

Fresh snow covers most of the graves, thinking I'm too young to know. Yossi and Yefim carry the wooden box to a small, gated area marked with a Star of David. There, Rabbi Moskowitz, and a few others wait silently in front of open earth.

On the other side of the pit four Russians dressed like railroad or construction workers look me up and down. I try not to look back. Gravediggers have no family or friends, and don't mistake them for one of us.

Rabbi Moskowitz says a prayer about being tied in the bond of life. Kaddish is said for the first time. The handkerchief is still wet, and I've become a gravedigger. And death has become eternal life.