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It’s easy to get caught up in the joy of the holidays, but we shouldn’t forget that in the midst of all that happiness, there is still heartbreaking tragedy. Even during the holiday season, pain is still present, and all we can do is try to alleviate as much suffering as possible. That’s precisely what Eric Schmitt-Matzen, a professional Santa did. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Tennessee native granted the wish of a dying boy who just wanted to experience Christmas one last time.
Schmitt-Matzen, who maintains the full white beard and Santa physique for maximum authenticity, was notified by the local hospital that a dying 5-year-old who wanted to see Santa. The 60-year-old quickly sprang into action, forgoing his full suit in order to reach the hospital in time. As he entered the young boy’s room, Schmitt-Matzen’s heart already began to break.
“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!’
“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.” (Via)
In the face of such tragic loss, Schmitt-Matzen wasn’t sure if he could continue his role as Santa to so many.
“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. Actually, I thought I might crack up and never be able to play the part again.”
However, he realized that bringing joy to as many children as possible was something he could do to lessen the painful realities of the world, doing one more show for the season, saying “When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play. For them and for me.” Our deepest condolences go out to the family that lost their child, and we thank Schmitt-Matzen for being there for strangers in a time of need.
(Via Knoxville News Sentinel)