KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (KRON/AP) — A Tennessee Santa Claus says a terminally ill 5-year-old boy died in his arms after he gave the boy a present in the hospital.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who does about 80 events a year as Santa, was asked a few weeks ago to visit the dying boy.
“They say I’m gonna die,” the boy told Schmitt-Matzen. “How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?”
Schmitt-Matzen replied: “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 gave Santa a last hug.
“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,” Schmitt-Matzen told the paper.
The boy’s mom ran in moments later screaming, “No, no, not yet,” which caused all the nursing staff to break down in tears — and left Schmitt-Matzen devastated.
Schmitt-Matzen says it took him days to recover, but he’s continuing to play Santa.