Eric Schmitt-Matzen held the five-year-old boy as he passed away in a Tennessee hopsital
A US man, who dresses up as Santa Claus, has spoken movingly about how he helped to fulfil the dying wish of a 5-year-old boy. Eric Schmitt-Matzen rushed to a local hospital in Tennessee after receiving a call, visiting the boy’s bedside, only to have the young child pass away in his arms.
The 60-year-old impersonator said that he gave the boy a present and a big hug, and held him as he was dying. The boy’s family watched on from the hospital hallway, Schmitt-Matzen said, as they had been asked to stay outside in case they should break down in tears during the emotional visit.
“When I felt the life go from him, I looked up, tears running down by face, and looked over at the window. And that’s when [his] mom starting screaming,” he said.
“I have to be the happy guy that makes the kid feel great and smile and forget his worries,” the Santa Claus impersonator said. “I said, ‘If you’re going to lose it, you have to step out into the hallways and afterwards, I’ll stand out in the hall and cry with you.’”
A mechanical engineer who was born on Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th), Schmitt-Matzen has been a seasonal Santa Claus for six years. His wife, Sharon, also lends a hand, dressing up as Mrs Claus.
Despite his relatively short number of years as a Santa impersonator, Schmitt-Matzen says he has attended the bedsides of four terminally ill children while wearing his red suit.
“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.
“[The five-year-old boy] was more concerned about missing Christmas than he was about dying. All he knew was that he didn’t feel food.”
In his guise as Santa, Schmitt-Matzen presented the boy with a gift and sat with him, answering questions. When asked where he would go when he died, he told the boy that he was welcome to join him at the North Pole, where he could become “Santa’s number one elf.”
The child then gave his hero a hug, shortly afterwards passing away in the arms of Santa Claus.
“It’s still tough to relive,” Schmitt-Matzen said, but added that he still plans to don the red suit again. “If somebody calls I’ll do it. It hurts, but I’ll do it.”