A terminally ill boy in Nashville, Tennessee had one final wish.
He wanted to meet Santa Claus.
And with just minutes to live, his wish was granted in one heartbreaking scene.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a dead-ringer for St. Nick.
He plays Santa Claus at about 80 events a year.
But a few weeks ago, he got a phone call that changed everything.
A nurse at a local hospital informed him that a dying 5-year-old boy had one final wish – he wanted to meet Santa Claus.
Informed the boy had just minutes to live, Schmitt-Matzen didn’t even have time to put on his full Santa outfit.
He raced to the hospital in time to see the boy, who looked like he was about to fall unconscious.
When Schmitt-Matzen light heartedly told the boy that he heard he was going to miss Christmas, the boy suddenly awoke and smiled.
The boy told him he was going to die and asked how he could tell when he got to where he was going.
Schmitt-Matzen said the boy should say he’s Santa’s number one elf and they’ll surely let him in.
Using his last bits of energy, he unwrapped the present “Santa” gave him – a toy his mother had bought – and gave Schmitt-Matzen a big hug.
Then he died in his arms.
Schmitt-Matzen recounts the scene to USA Today:
“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.’”