Sixty-year-old Eric Schmitt-Matzen has the beard, the build and the gentle eyes of Santa Claus, but he also has something even more important: the spirit.
Several weeks ago, Santa received a phone call from a nurse at a local hospital who said a 5-year-old terminally ill child wanted to see Santa Claus for the last time.
As expected, Schmitt-Matzen happily agreed.
When he got to the Intensive Care Unit, the boy was lying down in his bed, frail and sick.
“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 boy, who could barely open the gift that was presented to him, hugged the man and asked him several quick questions.
Towards the end of the visit, the boy asked him one last 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.”
After the incident, Schmitt-Matzen said he ran past the family and the nurses’ station crying — questioning whether he was cut out to be Santa.
“I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen said. “I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive.”
Several weeks later, he gathered enough strength to do one more show and when he heard the children laughing, he knew he had to be strong and continue his work.