Eric Schmitt-Matzen [has] portrayed Santa for years. A few weeks ago, his cellphone [rang], so he picked it up. It was a request for him to hear the wishes of a 5-year-old. Only, this 5-year-old was in the ICU and didn’t have much time left — Schmitt-Matzen didn’t even have time to put on his full suit, only his Santa-laden suspenders.
“I’d just gotten home from work that day,” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville New Sentinel. “It was a nurse I know who works at the hospital. She said there was a very sick 5-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus.”
“You know, kids look at things completely different,” Schmitt-Matzen recalled to WBIR in a video. “He was more concerned with missing Christmas than he was of dying.”
He said, ‘They say I’m dying.’” Schmitt-Matzen asked the boy to do him a favor. “When you get to those pearly gates, you just tell them you’re Santa’s number one elf. I guarantee you, it’ll open the gates for you.”
The boy smiled and said, “I am?” Then, Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’”
Schmitt-Matzen wrapped him in a warm, tight embrace.
“Before I could say anything, he died right there,” he said. “I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”