SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Tex. ― The day before her daughter was killed, Charlene Uhl bought her a notebook. It was lined and spiral-bound, nothing fancy, but perfect to 16-year-old Haley Krueger.
On Sunday, Uhl dropped Haley off at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where the teen regularly attended services. Haley arrived early so that she could help prepare breakfast for the parishioners, her mother said. She brought her new notebook along.
The church had a special meaning to her daughter, Uhl said. Two years ago, Haley’s father died of pancreatic cancer, and the weekly youth group meetings carried her through difficult times.
At some point on Sunday morning, Haley started to draw. On the first page of her notebook, she colored in pink hearts and sketched green crosses. “I accept God,” she wrote. “Take me away Jesus help me not hurt anymore.”
That was the last communication Uhl would ever see from her daughter.
A few hours after she left Haley with a kiss, Uhl received word that there had been a shooting. Haley was one of 26 people ― about a third of them children ― gunned down by Devin Patrick Kelley in the deadliest mass shooting in modern Texas history.
On Thursday, Uhl stood on the road outside the church and stared at the line of wooden crosses erected in memory of the victims. Each one had a name, a red heart and a photo.
“It’s unreal,” she told HuffPost. “No parent should have to bury their child.”
Earlier that day, an FBI agent had returned Haley’s notebook to her because she kept asking for it. She was astonished when she saw what was on Haley’s mind before she died. She was thinking about heaven.
She described her daughter as a vibrant and happy child who loved to help others. It was Haley’s dream to become a nurse and work in a neonatal intensive care unit, Uhl said.
The two of them liked to watch television together and bond.
“She’d make me watch Grey’s Anatomy,” Uhl said. “She was behind, and she realized that she liked the show, so she was going through all the seasons. And every night she’d be watching it in my bedroom.”
Uhl has barely slept since she heard the news; when she tries, she has nightmares.
“She went through a horrible tragedy,” she said about Haley. “I close my eyes and that’s all I see.”
For now, Uhl said she is staying indoors and trying to help her three other children cope with the loss of their sibling. She was also busy planning the arrangements for her daughter’s funeral. A friend has launched an online fundraiser to cover some of the costs.
But when she heard about all the white crosses she wanted to see them, so she made her way to the church.
After HuffPost interviewed Uhl, she stood in front of the memorial by herself for a long time. She had nothing else to say.