Santa Grants Terminally Ill Boy’s Final Wish Moments Before He Dies in His Arms

Editor’s note: After the publication of this article, new investigations could not independently verify the accuracy of the story. The newspaper behind the original story is no longer standing by the veracity of Eric Schmitt-Matzen’s account. Meet Eric Schmitt-Matzen, a holiday Santa who is taking his role to the next level. At 6-feet tall and 310 pounds, Schmitt-Matzen looks the part of Santa year round. His naturally flowing white beard even won the “natural full beard, styled moustache” category in the Just For Men hair contest. Schmitt-Matzen, who normally works around 80 gigs during the winter, is professionally trained to play the part of Mr. Claus. However, last week his normal routine had a heartbreaking twist. “I’d just gotten home from work that day,” Schmitt-Matzen told The Knoxville News Sentinel. “The telephone rang. It was a nurse I know who works at the hospital. She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus. I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’ She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.’” Within 15 minutes, Schmitt-Matzen was at the hospital meeting the little boy’s mom and a few family members. “She’d bought a toy from (the TV show) PAW Patrol and wanted me to give it to him,” he said to The Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’” The family watched from the hall window into the ICU as Schmitt-Matzen tried to make this little boy’s Christmas wish come true. “When I walked in, he was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep,” Schmitt-Matzen told The Knoxville News Sentinel. “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?’” He continued, “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.” The little boy then told Santa he was going to die, but was worried about where he was going. “‘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,” Schmitt-Matzen shared with The Knoxville News Sentinel. The weak little boy then had one more question for Santa, however Schmitt-Matzen never got the chance to find out what it was. “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.” He continued, “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.” For Schmitt-Matzen, it is a visit that will stay with him forever. While the unbearably sad situation almost had the 60-year-old hanging up his suit permanently, he found a way to power through. “When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play,” he told the The Knoxville News Sentinel. “For them and for me

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