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'I cried all the way home': Santa Claus grants final wish to a dying child

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Santa Roberts

'I cried all the way home': Santa Claus grants final wish to a dying child

News Sentinel , KPNX
December 11, 2016

EXCERPT:

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Eric Schmitt-Matzen looks every bit like Santa Claus.

His 6-foot frame carries 310 pounds, leaving “just enough of a lap for the kids to sit on,” he says with a gentle Kringley chuckle right out of Central Casting.

No fake facial fuzz for this guy. Schmitt-Matzen’s snowy beard is the real thing, albeit regularly bleached to maintain its whiteness. His shag is so spectacular, in fact, it won first place in the “natural full beard, styled moustache” division of a 2016 national contest sponsored by the Just For Men hair products company.

He’s professionally trained. Custom-tailored in red. Was born on Dec. 6 (that’s Saint Nicholas Day — are you surprised?) Works approximately 80 gigs annually. Wife Sharon plays an authentic Mrs. Claus. His cellphone, with a Jingle Bells ringtone, continually counts down the days until Christmas. Even his civilian attire always includes Santa suspenders.

The whole shtick is designed to spread joy and have fun.

Which it does – except for the role he played several weeks ago at a local hospital.

“I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen told me. “I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive.

“My wife and I were scheduled to visit our grandchildren in Nashville the next day, but I told her to go by herself. I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time. Actually, I thought I might crack up and never be able to play the part again.”

This is what happens when a terminally ill child dies in Santa’s arms.

“I’d just gotten home from work that day,” recalled Schmitt-Matzen, 60, a mechanical engineer and president of Packing Seals & Engineering in Jacksboro.

“The telephone rang. 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.

“I told her, ‘OK, just let me change into my outfit.’ She said, ‘There isn’t time for that. Your Santa suspenders are good enough. Come right now.’ ”

Schmitt-Matzen got to the hospital in 15 minutes. He met the lad’s mother and several family members.

“She’d bought a toy from (the TV show) PAW Patrol and wanted me to give it to him,” he said, voice growing husky. “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.’ ”

Nobody entered with him. They watched, sobbing, from a hallway window in the Intensive Care Unit.

“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.

“I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, and I’ve seen my share of (stuff). 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.’”

In despair, Schmitt-Matzen was ready to hang up his suit. “I’m just not cut out for this,” he reasoned.

But he mustered the strength to work one more show.

“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.”

SOURCE: http://www.king5.com/news/nation-now/i-cried-all-the-way-home-santa-claus-grants-final-wish-to-a-dying-child/368010187

#

Has anyone here ever been involved in a similar situation?

 

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Schwindy

:santa_cry: Is all I can say. His answers ........... Perfect in everyway to a 5 year old.

Edited by Schwindy
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Larry
Quote

It made me realize the role I have to play.

To the giving Santa's that comfort the Believers ... May God Bless you with his support.

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Elf Bramble

This sort of story, this is why I am likely and Elf for life. I could NEVER keep it together in such a situation.

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Nick Hudson

Hope it never happens, if it does I will go. I see so many sick children and have seen the same ones for 6 years no way I would let one down.

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Eileen Strom

Read this earlier this morning on FB...unbelievable...such a sad but wonderful parting for this little boy and his family. He went out smiling and being hugged by Santa.

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SCSanta

More proof that there are angels who walk among us. I believe that whenever you make it easier for someone to enter heaven, the gates will open wider for you on your day.

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Santa Everett

I'm honored to call Eric my friend! May God bless.

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Atlantic Santa

Wow, all I can say is what an honor.

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Santa John Gable

Here goes nothing.

Okay, while I too believe that what this gentleman did was admirable, I have a problem with the story, and I can't believe that I am the only one who feels this way.  He took what should have been a private, tender moment between this boy, his family, and himself, and turned it into a media feeding frenzy.  The boy was only 5 years old, why on earth would you publicize this?!  

First off, I feel like mom should have been in the room to say goodbye to her son.  She missed that opportunity.

Second, the story sounds just a bit too "Hallmark" for me to believe that it wasn't embellished at all.  

And third, I don't believe the story should ever have made it to the news, at least not from the lips of Santa.  Santa could have politely declined an interview.  Instead it feels like a publicity stunt to me.

These are just my thoughts and I know I will likely get crucified for stating them, but they are what I feel.  Being interviewed by the newspaper is one thing.  I just had it happen myself.  But profiting off the grief of a family who just lost a loved one, well... perhaps I have said too much.

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Dutch Schrap

I absolutely see your point, John.

I’ve seen the post going viral on Facebook today.  I think every major news outlet in the Country is picking it up at this point.  I'm sure Santa will get some interviews with BIG agencies soon.  I wonder how the Parents and Family feel about rehashing this over and over today? Maybe this is how they wanted their child to be remembered?  I don't know.  But here’s another thing – we are all modeled after Saint Nicholas.  Would Saint Nicholas have wanted credit for his asks of generosity and goodwill in a circumstance so sacred, so private, and so personal? That's for each of us to answer, I guess?  If the News agencies contacted him, I think I would have just said a polite, “No comment” and an “Always Believe.”  God Bless this young man and may he always remember his final Earthly moments in eternity were one of caring, excitement, and belief.  God Bless this Santa for doing something so brave and strong for visiting with this young man and I hope he realizes the same. 

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Dr Santa Steve

Man. That's tough. Sounds like he did as well an anyone could have and better than many would have. As a parent of a young child, I couldn't imagine what the family must be going through. He was able to leave them with what will hopefully become a comforting memory in time. Good man.

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Santa John Gable
1 minute ago, Dr Santa Steve said:

Man. That's tough. Sounds like he did as well an anyone could have and better than many would have. As a parent of a young child, I couldn't imagine what the family must be going through. He was able to leave them with what will hopefully become a comforting memory in time. Good man.

I am not questioning what he did on the day of the visit, only what he did after.

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Dr Santa Steve
10 minutes ago, Santa John Gable said:

I am not questioning what he did on the day of the visit, only what he did after.

Yes. I was just reading your post, and after considering it a little, I agree with you. I was caught up in the emotional aspect of the story and thinking about how I would have handled it as a parent. You are absolutely correct. It shouldn't have turned into publicity. It probably should have stayed between him and the family. I didn't see the original article. I wonder how it all came out to the press and if the press took any liberties with the story. 

I also thought about the family not being with the boy as he passed. That's very unfortunate, but from what I understand, the Santa was invited there to see the boy. The timing was out of anyone's control. I don't know enough about it to say. Very sad and unfortunate situation all around.

Edited by Dr Santa Steve
Afterthought

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Nick Hudson

Nice to have a positive story about Santa for a change.

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Santa Barney

God bless everyone involved with this.  The family, Santa, Drs, Nurses, etc. 

It's very easy to sit back and say what "should have happened" or say "I would have done...." after the fact./ 

Unless you know, not read, but know, what happened along with how and when, prior to and afterwards maybe the best thing would be to take a deep breath and be glad it wasn't one of us who had to make the decision. 

Bless everyone involved.

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Nick Hudson
30 minutes ago, Santa Barney said:

God bless everyone involved with this.  The family, Santa, Drs, Nurses, etc. 

It's very easy to sit back and say what "should have happened" or say "I would have done...." after the fact./ 

Unless you know, not read, but know, what happened along with how and when, prior to and afterwards maybe the best thing would be to take a deep breath and be glad it wasn't one of us who had to make the decision. 

Bless everyone involved.

I agree, don't be to fast for a opinion! Be glad he could do it and it wasn't you, doesn't look like mom ever dreamed that would happen. If he was talking why would they? 

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Felix Estridge
19 hours ago, Santa John Gable said:

I am not questioning what he did on the day of the visit, only what he did after.

Have you ever thought that it might not have been him that went to the media?  It can easily see hospital staff taking and talking about this and one of them reaching out to someone they know in the media to have the story told.  He, most likely, was reached out to and did not seek the limelight in this situation.

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Santa John Gable
51 minutes ago, Felix Estridge said:

Have you ever thought that it might not have been him that went to the media?  It can easily see hospital staff taking and talking about this and one of them reaching out to someone they know in the media to have the story told.  He, most likely, was reached out to and did not seek the limelight in this situation.

Whatever the situation, we can agree to disagree on this and move on.  Each is entitled to an opinion, and they are just that, opinions.  Neither is 100% right or 100% wrong.  I call a truce. 

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Elf Without Jingles

Oh, I certainly hoped that you guys would be on top of this story. I have too --- and I have spent three whole days crying as a result! Indeed, as I later wrote, "What you did was very, very brave. We tend to take for granted the fact that Santa Claus is also well-known for committing random acts of bravery; Eric Schmitt-Matzen represents what happens when a really brave person can step into the open and say, 'I can handle this.'

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Nick Hudson

Just seen that the newspaper is pulling the verification this is true and can't find any backing to prove its true. I hope it is and doesn't come back to haunt him.

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Santa Marty

It's not unlike a lot of Santas to be teared up, nor is it that unusual.

I should start a poll.... na, not enough time. 

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Santa Castor
16 minutes ago, Michael Rielly said:

Strange times we find ourselves in.  Some may say it was all foretold, and not by Nostradamus.

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

Edited by Santa Castor
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Dutch Schrap

Woah.

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