Santa Claus receives many wishes from children during the holiday season, but one wish from a terminally ill five-year-old boy from Tennessee brought a Santa to tears.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen had just returned home from one of his gigs playing Santa, when a nurse from the local hospital gave him a call, asking him to come to the hospital because there was a very sick little boy who wanted to see Santa, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Schmitt-Matzen was used to playing Santa for years. He even looks the part and was born on December 6 (St. Nick’s Day). But nothing could prepare him for what he faced when he got to the hospital.
He arrived at the hospital in 15 minutes, where the boy’s mother gave him a Paw Patrol toy to hand to her son, Metro UK reported, and did not even have time to dress in his full Santa suit.
“When I walked in, he was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep. I sat down on his bed and asked, ‘Say, what’s this I hear about you’re gonna miss Christmas? There’s no way you can miss Christmas! Why, you’re my Number One elf!” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The boy was so weak that he could barely open the present that Schmitt-Matzen gave him.
“They say I’m going to die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?” the boy asked.
Schmitt-Matzen replied, “When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.”
The boy then sat up and asked one more question: “Santa, can you help me?”
Before Schmitt-Matzen could answer, the boy died in his arms.
“I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel, adding:
I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive. My wife and I were scheduled to visit our grandchildren in Nashville the next day, but I told her to go by herself. I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time.
He even considered hanging up the Santa suit for good after that incident, but he continued.
This is not the first time Schmitt-Matzen has made a deathbed visit. He has made no less than four deathbed visits, including one with an adult who wanted to take a picture with Santa as something to knock off the bucket list, the Daily Mail reported.