Better get the tissues ready for this one. A Tennessee man who plays Santa Claus every year around the holidays rushed to the hospital recently to make a dying little boy's Christmas dreams come true.
Santa, whose real name is Eric Schmitt-Matzen, got a call from a nurse he knows at a local hospital who told him that there was a very sick five-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa.
“I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’" Schmitt-Matzen told Knoxville News Sentinel. She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.’”
Schmitt-Matzen arrived at the ICU just fifteen minutes later. Outside, he met the boys' mother, along with some other family members.
"She’d bought a toy from (the TV show) PAW Patrol and wanted me to give it to him," he said. "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.'"
Schmitt-Matzen went in to see the little boy alone. He shared the conversation they had with Knoxville News Sentinel. He provided the boy the much needed comfort that only Santa could bring.
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!"
Unfortunately, the little boy passed away right after his conversation with Santa. (I know, I know. It's terrible. We're cruel for even telling you this story.) But at least we can all take comfort in the fact that this hero Santa made his last moments happy ones.
Schmitt-Matzen was so distraught by the incident that he thought he'd have to hang up the red suit forever. (How could you not feel that way?) That is, until he found the strength for one more Santa gig.
"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 said. "For them and for me."
What a hero. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to go drown our sorrows in Christmas cookies.