UVALDE (CBSNewsTexas.com) — On May 24, 2022, Felicha Martinez's world shattered.
Her 10-year-old son Xavier Lopez was one of 21 people gunned down and killed inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
And now, almost a full year later, she says every day is still a battle.
"Holding on by a thread, but holding on," Martinez shares in her first sit-down interview with Karen Borta. "There are days where I just wake up and it's like, I don't want to no more. I don't. I don't want to do this no more. I miss him a lot."
Inside her home, Martinez and her husband, Abel Lopez, have placed pictures and mementos of their son on almost every surface. Together, they have two younger sons—Jermya and Justan—and an older son, Jose, who now has a family of his own.
But Xavier, who they also call XJ (short for Xavier James), was the heart of the household—a constant source of energy, a giver of hugs, and his mother's self-appointed guardian.
"He was a protector," Martinez says. "If anybody was mean to me, Xavier was right there, like, 'You're not going to be mean to mom...' He was my helper. He was my...he was my best friend. My everything."
She says XJ was a friend to everyone. He loved sports, especially baseball and soccer, and was looking forward to getting to play football like his older brother.
But he wasn't afraid to show a softer side, Martinez says, especially if it involved dancing. "Me, dad and Xavier...we were always dancing. Anything that was on, Xavier would just dance. Just dance. That was his DNA. That was his blood."
She says his personality could light up a room.
"You would hear him laughing...It was contagious. Very contagious."
As broken as she's been since his passing, Martinez says it helps her to talk about Xavier. She wants people to know who he was, and how proud she was of him.
"I'm very proud of my XJ, because he was a hard kid to raise...I always knew he had some type of disability. I always knew," Martinez says. She says Xavier was diagnosed with ADHD, and when they found medication didn't work for him, he began disciplining himself—making a conscious effort to focus in class.
And his hard work paid off.
On that last day, at the morning awards ceremony, Xavier was on the receiving end of an unexpected announcement from his teacher.
"They were barely starting his class. And they're like, 'We want to reward Xavier Lopez for A-B Honor Roll.' He looked at me, and he was just smiling. He just kept looking at it like, 'I did it. I did it.' And I told him, 'Baby, I'm proud of you.'"
He posed for a picture that morning alongside his lifelong friend, Annabelle Rodriguez, who had recently become his girlfriend.
She also died that afternoon, and they are now buried side-by-side.
The months and the seasons continue to pass by, but the pain from that day is still fresh. And for Martinez, time hasn't come close to healing her wounds.
"It's hard. It's really really hard. I love my babies. I love all my babies. But losing a child, the way I lost him is...there's no words to explain," Martinez says tearfully. "It's numbing. There's no way to explain the feeling because there is no feeling. I don't feel nothing anymore. It hurts."
There's nothing she doesn't miss about XJ, even those little things mothers may might not think about, until they're gone.
"You miss that touch, you miss that smell," she says. "We always complain about stinky feet and you know, 'You stink, take a bath.' But you miss that. You miss it."
She shares that she still has the clothes he was wearing that day, storing them inside a bag she smells before bed each night. "I know it sounds weird or creepy, but I smell his shoes. I smell his socks. I smell his clothes, but I try not to have them out too long cause I don't want the smell to go away."
In the past 11 months, she and 18 other mothers in Uvalde have been through unimaginable heartbreak and terrible firsts, including observing their first major holidays without their children.
For Martinez, those red-letter days on the calendar are days she'd rather ignore.
"Christmas was the worst," she cries. "I didn't want to be around nobody. Nobody. And I told my mom, 'I love you. I'm sorry, but I don't want nobody to be around me. Like I don't want to see nobody.'"
And, as much as it hurts her, this Mother's Day won't be much different. "Mother's day is not a day I look forward to anymore."
The only times Martinez finds solace, she says, is when watching videos of XJ dancing or when talking with the other moms, who understand the pain she's in. "That day took so much from us. So much. It's not just they took our child[ren], they took happiness, joy...everything. They took everything."
While showing Borta around Xavier's room, Martinez recalls the moment she knew her son was one of the victims. She was at a nearby hospital searching for answers, when a nurse got her on the phone with a first responder who had an unidentified child. "She said, 'We heard that you have a child there, from Uvalde...Can you describe him?' I said, 'He was wearing blue jeans and a black shirt.' 'Well, the child that we have is naked and he has one shoe on.' And I was like, 'OK, he has a bald spot on his head. It's small, but if you move his hair you can see.'"
It was then confirmed the child was XJ. "I lost it. I lost it. I knew it was my baby."
Moving forward, Martinez's battle is to simply face each new day. She does it for her surviving sons and her husband, and hopes that one day it won't become a battle anymore.
"One day I'll have that strength again," she says. "One day. I pray."
for more features.