A Terminally-Ill 5-Year-Old Boy Dies In Santa Claus Arms
Not even sure how we’re typing these words right now and after you read the following KnoxNews story about a dying 5-year-old boy and his final Christmas wish you’ll understand why.
The child is unidentified but the only thing he wanted for Christmas is to meet Santa Claus. There’s no way he could know how his life and subsequent death would affect the man he was so excited to meet.
The man tapped to play jolly ol’ Saint Nick was Eric Schmitt-Matzen, a 60-year-old professionally trained Santa Claus who was also a former Army Ranger. He wasn’t ready for what he was about to encounter when he walked into the hospital to bring the Christmas spirit to the terminally-ill boy…
“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!
“He looked up and said, ‘I am?’
“I said, ‘Sure!’
“I gave him the present. He was so weak he could barely open the wrapping paper. When he saw what was inside, he flashed a big smile and laid his head back down.
‘“They say I’m gonna die,’ he told me. ‘How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?’
“I said, ‘Can you do me a big favor?’
“He said, ‘Sure!’
“When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.
“He said, ‘They will?’
“I said, ‘Sure!’
Here’s where you’re gonna need the kleenex if you haven’t gotten them already…
“He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’
“I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.
“Everyone outside the room realized what happened. His mother ran in. She was screaming, ‘No, no, not yet!’ I handed her son back and left as fast as I could.
“I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, and I’ve seen my share of (stuff). But I ran by the nurses’ station bawling my head off. I know nurses and doctors see things like that every day, but I don’t know how they can take it.’”
Eric Schmitt-Matzen performs about 80 Santa Claus gigs a year, but after this experience he says he considered ending his part-time career as the iconic gift giver. After a long hiatus he eventually went back, but we don’t think anyone would blame him if he didn’t.
R.I.P. to the young boy who just wanted to have a Merry Christmas.
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