Terminally-ill boy’s final wish was to see Santa Claus, and after it was fulfilled he died in Santa’s arms. Rumours claim the story could actually be a hoax.
Earlier this week we shared the story of Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who plays Santa Claus at 80 different gigs every year, but it was one boy in a Tennessee hospital who he will never forget, shared Daily Mail.
Mr Schmitt-Matzen, a mechanical engineer and the president of Packaging Seals & Engineering, had just gotten home from work when he got an urgent phone call.
It was a nurse who worked at the hospital where Mr Schmitt-Matzen, 60, often spreads joy and Christmas cheer.
The nurse said there was a ‘very sick five-year-old boy’ who wanted to see Santa Claus, Mr Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
He told the nurse he would change into his suit and come right away, but she said the boy didn’t have much time left.
‘Your Santa suspenders are good enough,’ she then said. ‘Come right now.’
Fifteen minutes later, Mr Schmitt-Matzen arrived. The boy’s mother held out a toy from the popular children’s show PAW Patrol, and asked him to give it to her son.
‘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,'” he said.
As the boy’s relatives watched and cried from a window looking into the Intensive Care Unit, Mr Schmitt-Matzen walked inside and saw the boy.
‘He was laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep,’ he said.
‘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!’
The little boy looked up at Mr Schmitt-Matzen and his perfect Santa Claus beard and asked: ‘I am?’
Mr Schmitt-Matzen assured the child that he was, and then gave him the toy.
‘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 had a big question for Santa.
‘They say I’m gonna die,’ he told Mr Schmitt-Matzen. ‘How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?’
Mr Schmitt-Matzen then asked the little boy to do him a ‘big favor’.
‘When you get there, you tell them you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in,’ he told the boy.
‘They will?’ the child asked.
‘Sure!’ Mr Schmitt-Matzen replied.
The little boy sat up and gave him a big hug. He had one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’
It would be his final words.
‘I wrapped my arms around him. Before I could say anything, he died right there,’ Mr Schmitt-Matzen said.
‘I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.’
Mr Schmitt-Matzen said everyone outside the room then realized what had just happened, and the little boy’s mother ran into the room screaming.
‘I handed her son back and left as fast as I could,’ he said.
‘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.’
The entire experience completely rattled Schmitt-Matzen, who cried the entire drive back home.
‘My wife and I were scheduled to visit our grandchildren in Nashville the next day, but I told her to go by herself,’ he said.
‘I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time.’
Mr Schmitt-Matzen was so affected he even considered leaving Santa Claus behind for good.
But he dragged himself to another show, and remembered just what had inspired him to wear Father Christmas’ suit in the first place.
‘When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold,’ he said.
‘It made me realize the role I have to play.’
UPDATE 16 December.
Further investigations into the story have discovered the facts as unproven and no hospitals in the area can confirm such an experience ever occurring.
The heartbreaking story was first published by Knoxville News Sentinel, and quickly went viral after USA Today columnist Sam Venable republished it in his own words. With the tale tracking so much heat, News Sentinel editor Jack McElroy decided to investigate a little further, and found some disturbing discoveries. Jack later said that he was unable to verify the published account, because Eric refused to name the boy’s family and the nurse who called him to the hospital. With no proven identities, the story is all based on Eric’s word alone.
“The News Sentinel cannot establish that Schmitt-Matzen’s account is inaccurate, but more importantly, ongoing reporting cannot establish that it is accurate,” wrote Jack on the company website. “Therefore, because the story does not meet the newspaper’s standards of verification, we are no longer standing by the veracity of Schmitt-Matzen’s account.”
Mr Schmitt-Matzen has reiterated his account of the visit saying “If some people want to call me a liar . . . I can handle that better than I can handle a child in my arms dying. It’s sticks and stones.”
We would like to think that there would be no reason for someone to make up such a story and continue to have faith in this amazing act of kindness.
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