A “Santa Claus” in Tennessee was brought to tears by the words of a dying child he came to comfort. Eric Schmitt-Matzen’s presence was requested in a local hospital after a terminally ill child requested that he wanted to meet Santa, Independent reports.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen, 60, who looks very much like Father Christmas with his handlebar mustache and his long white beard, was reduced to tears as he recalled his final moments with the boy and his last words.
“Santa, can you help me?”
Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a mechanical engineer by trade and a veteran of the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger unit. But he says he hardly gets too far without some kid recognizing him as Santa. The dying wishes of a terminally ill child meant a lot to Schmitt-Matzen as he spoke about how he tried extra hard to stay in character for this particular meeting. He even recalls telling family members who weren’t going to be able to hold their emotions and tears to wait outside in the hallway during the young boy’s encounter with Santa.
“My job was to make sure that he got Christmas. That’s got to be happy and that’s got to be a fun time, you know? Hard to do when your family members are just, they’re in a bad way right now.”
Schmitt-Matzen recalled his heart-melting conversation with the boy, who was too weak to move but could still talk, and how he tried his best to comfort the little one.
“What’s this I hear you’re gonna be missing Christmas this year? Well you’re not going to miss Christmas! The elves already have your present made!’
The boy didn’t seem too enthusiastic up to this point as he told Santa that he was dying and he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him after his death. Santa continued to try and comfort the boy.
“Can you do me a favor? When you get up to those Pearly Gates, just tell them you’re Santa’s number one elf!”
A glimmer of enthusiasm showed in the boy as she asked, “I am?”
“Sure are,” replied Santa, “I’m sure they’ll let you in.”
“They will?” the boy asked with more enthusiasm.
“I said I know it,” Schmitt-Matzen replied, right after which he recalls that the boy came up and gave him a big hug. It was at this point that the conversation dove right into a heart-melting pit. Schmitt-Matzen recalls how the boy just kind of looked up to him and said, “Santa, can you help me?”
It was right after he said this that the boy passed. Schmitt-Matzen was reduced to tears as was the boy’s mother, who had still hoped for a few more moments with her son. She started yelling, “No, no, not yet!”
Despite the gloomy ending to his visit, Schmitt-Matzen was confident that he granted the boy his final wishes.
“Kids look at things completely different. He was more concerned about missing Christmas than he was with dying.”
Schmitt-Matzen says that it took him a week or two to stop thinking about his final moments with the dying boy all the time. At one point, Schmitt-Matzen recalls, he thought he might never even be able to play the part again.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen has been playing the role of Santa for the past six years. His wife, Sharon, also dresses up as Mrs. Claus with him. Mr. Schmitt-Matzen says this was his fourth time visiting a child in their deathbed.
“The little guys and girls have a hard time fathoming the whole concept of death, but they know Christmas and they know they have a lot of fun.”
[Featured Image by Boris Grdanoski/AP Images]