Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a mechanical engineer and president of Packing Seals & Engineering, but come Christmas season, he has 80 Santa gigs a year.
Eric was born to play Santa Claus… he stands at 6-foot, weighs 310 pounds and has a real white beard and glasses.
One day after he got home from work, Eric received a phone call from a nurse at the Tennessee hospital asking him to please do a favor for an ill little boy who wanted to meet Santa Claus.
Of course, Eric said yes and said that he had to change into his Santa suit, but the nurse told him that there no time and he needed to head over ASAP.
Eric rushed to the hospital wearing his Christmas themed suspenders and when he walked in he was handed a gift for give the little boy. He met the family and walked in.
“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,'” Eric told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The little boy perked up a little and said, “I am?”
And as he told USA Today, “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.”
Eric recalls the boy saying, “They say I’m gonna die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”
Eric replied, “When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s number one elf, and I know they’ll let you in.”
That’s when the boy gave Santa a big hug and said, “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.”
The mom and the rest of the family realized what had happened and they rushed inside to his beside and the mom screamed, “No, no, not yet!”
Her screams and the little boys death sent the nurses to breakdown.
“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 ho they can take it.”
He said he drove home crying so hard that he could barely see the road too and he said it took him 1 to 2 weeks to get over it and he almost gave up playing Santa too.
Eric said he did one more gig and, “When I saw all those children laughing, it brought back into back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play – for them and for me.”
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