Holiday | Family

"Santa, Can You Help Me?"--Terminally Ill Boy Dies In Santa's Arms

One Santa Claus granted a young boy his dying wish this Christmas--to meet the big man in red.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old mechanical engineer who uses his uncanny appearance to Kris Kringle for about 80 gigs a year. This one, however, is one that almost made him stop.

A 5-year-old boy in Tennessee was minutes away from death, so the hospital called Schmitt-Matzen to grant his final wish. Schmitt-Matzen rushed to the hospital where he was brought to the dying child.

"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,'" asked 'Santa.'

"They say I'm gonna die," the boy told Schmitt-Matzen. "How can I tell when I get to where I'm going?"

Schmitt-Matzen replied, "When you get there, you tell 'em you're Santa's number one elf, and I know they'll let you in."

The boy then gave Santa a last hug.

"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," Schmitt-Matzen recalled. "I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers and I've seen my share of [stuff]," he said. "But I ran by the nurses' station bawling my head off. I know nurses and doctors see things like that every day, but I don't know how they can take it."

"Santa" said the experience almost made him leave the circuit. But he went to what he thought was one last event and realized he brings so much happiness to other kids, he couldn't just give it up.

"When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play — for them and for me."

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