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Terminally Ill Boy from Knoxville, Tennessee Reportedly Dies in Santa’s Arms After Making a Final Request

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Young love children love telling Santa Claus their Christmas wishes. But for one little boy in Knoxville, TN, getting to talk to Santa was just the comfort and closure he needed, as this moving story proves. (Brace yourselves: You may want to grab a tissue now.)

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, a man named Eric Schmitt-Matzen has played Santa for many years. He looks every bit the part, right down to his long white (real!) beard and suspenders, and he was even born on Dec. 6, St. Nick’s Day. Most of all, he adores making Christmas magic come alive for children, and he takes it very seriously.

That’s why when, several weeks ago, Schmitt-Matzen reportedly received a call from a nurse at a local hospital who asked him to come right away because there was a very sick little boy who wanted to see Santa, he jumped up and raced there.

When he arrived 15 minutes later, the little boy’s mother gave Schmitt-Matzen a Paw Patrol toy to hand to her son.

“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!” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Schmitt-Matzen gave the present to the boy, who was so weak he could hardly open the wrapping paper. Still, his eyes lit up when he saw the Paw Patrol packaging.

The boy asked him, “They say I’m going to die. How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”

Schmitt-Matzen told the boy, “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 sat up, and asked one more question: “Santa, can you help me?”

But before Schmitt-Matzen could answer, he reportedly felt the young boy die in his arms.

“I cried all the way home,” Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive. I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time.”

For a while, Schmitt-Matzen wasn’t sure if he could play Santa again, but he decided to work one more show and said it “made me realize the role I have to play, for them and for me,” he told the paper.

Our thoughts and prayers are with that young boy and his family, and with Schmitt-Matzen too. We’re so glad he was able to comfort the boy in his final moments, and give him the peace and courage he needed to be able to let go. After all, to a young boy, Santa’s arms must surely feel like the safest place of all.


NEXT: These sweet Santa photo fails will also make you smile.

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