No parent ever wants to see his or her child sick in the hospital — especially on Christmas. And no parent ever, ever wants to see that child die in the hospital — especially on Christmas.
Neither does Santa.
One Knoxville, Tennessee, family apparently found itself in a race against time to bring some Christmas happiness to their suffering little boy.
That’s where Eric-Schmitt-Matzen, and his big heart, came in.
He looks so much like Santa, he won an award this year for his “natural full beard,” in a 2016 national contest sponsored by the Just for Men hair products company, according to a report in the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
“He’s professionally trained. Custom-tailored in red. Was born on Dec. 6 (that’s Saint Nicholas Day — are you surprised?). Works approximately 80 gigs annually. Wife Sharon plays an authentic Mrs. Claus.”
But at a hospital this Christmas season, Schmitt-Matzen, 60, played his most important role. He paid a visit to a five-year-old who just wanted to see Santa.
The ailing boy had one final request: He wanted a PAW Patrol toy.
So, with the permission of the boy’s mom and the hospital staff, “Santa” entered the intensive care unit and found the weak boy with the final Christmas wish.
Schmitt-Matzen told the boy that he — the child — “was my Number One elf.” The child was so excited — and so weak he could hardly open the present. But he did.
Then the boy lay back down on his bed, and as Schmitt-Matzen relayed and as the News-Sentinel explained, the boy then said, “Santa, can you help me?”
As Santa listened, the little guy said, “They say I’m gonna die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”
“When you get there,” Schmitt-Matzen said, “tell them you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.”
The two embraced in a giant bear hug — and then the boy passed away, in Santa’s arms.
Schmitt-Matzen had spent time in the Army as a Ranger. He has worked for years as a mechanical engineer. Played Santa lots of other times. Helped lots of other kids. This experience, so emotional and dramatic, nearly had him hanging up his Santa suit for good, he said — until he realized later, “No way.”
“When I saw [other] children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play. For them and for me,” he told the publication.
May the message of Christmas this year and every year be that we give to others in whatever way we can. Other people — sometimes perfect strangers — need our help and our time more than we realize.
Update: On Dec. 14, 2016, LifeZette learned that the veracity of this story is being questioned and that the Knoxville News-Sentinel is “no longer standing by the veracity of Schmitt-Matzen’s account.” We’ll continue to update readers as we learn more.