Eric Schmitt-Matzen dresses up as Santa every year for kids in his Tennessee area, and this year a terminally ill boy’s last wish was to sit on Santa’s lap.


Schmitt-Matzen obliged, but during his conversation with the 5-year-old, the boy passed away. “I said, ‘What’s this I hear that you think you’re going to miss Christmas?'” says Schmitt-Matzen recalling the interaction while on a phone interview with CNN. “He just kind of nodded at me, so I said, ‘No way! Your present’s already been made up for you, and here it is.”

At 300 pounds, Schmitt-Matzen makes the perfect Santa, with a natural white beard and curly mustouche to boot. A nurse he knew told him about the boy and that his dying wish was to meet Santa. He and the boy opened the gift together, and the boy was happy, but then said, “They say I’m dying,” continued Schmitt-Matzen. “I said, ‘Will you do me a favor?’ He said, ‘Sure!’ When you get to those pearly gates, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One Elf, and I Know they’ll let you in.

“He Kinda sat up and have me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’ And he passed before I could say anything, so I just on to him.”


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The tragic moment left Schmitt-Matzen shaken, and wondering if he would ever pretend to be Santa again. But then he saw children playing and laughing, and decided he had to continue. “It made me realize the role I have to play. For them and for me.”

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