Do you believe in Santa? Have you ever seen a Santa crying? The 60-year-old Eric Schmitt-Matzen has been spreading joy around Knoxville, Tennessee for nine years. He plays Santa at 80 different gigs every year. He and his wife known as Mrs. Claus even went to Santa school six years ago. But this year he can’t hold his tears because of one five-year-old boy who he will never forget.
When he is not giving Christmas gifts, this Santa works as a mechanical engineer, and he is co-owner of Packaging Seals & Engineering. Just some weeks ago when Schmitt-Matzen arrived at home from work he received an urgent call from the local hospital. There was a very sick boy who wanted to see Santa Claus.
“He was more concerned about missing Christmas than dying,” Schmitt-Matzen recalled to WBIR 10News.
He rushed and managed to get to the hospital in 15 minutes. Santa didn’t have time to come with a costume, but his long white beard and curled mustache and a pair of Santa suspenders were enough. The boy’s mother was waiting in the corridor of the Intensive Care Unit, and she handed Schmitt-Matzen a PAW Patrol toy to give to her child.
“When I got there, it was my job to make sure he got Christmas,” Schmitt-Matzen 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,'” he said.
“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.
“Everyone outside the room realized what happened. His mother ran in. She was screaming, ‘No, no, not yet!’ I handed her son back and left as fast as I could.”
The experience was very emotional and draining for Schmitt-Matzen. He admits he thought about hanging up his Santa costume for good. But he changed his mind after doing what he thought was one final show, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.