Santa Claus 'cried all the way home' after terminally-ill boy (5) dies in his arms
A Santa Claus said he "cried all the way home" after a terminally ill five-year-old boy passed away in his arms.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen, who works as an engineer in Jacksboro, Texas for his day job, works for Santa during the festive season.
The 60-year-old received a call from a nurse he knows at his local hospital who said there was a young child who was very sick and wanted to spend some time with him.
Eric told USA Today he went to change his outfit, but the nurse said there wasn't time and his staple suspenders were enough.
The young boy's mother met Eric at the hospital and handed him a PAW Patrol toy which he could give to the child.
Eric said he looked at the family members outside the room and said; "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."
He described how he entered the room and spoke to the child.
"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," he said.
When the boy questioned about where he was going to go when he passed away, Eric replied; "“When you get there, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in."
He continued; "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 realised 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."
Eric said he has spent four years in the army and "seen his fair share of stuff", but he couldn't help but cry on the journey home.
“I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive," he said.
“My wife and I were scheduled to visit our grandchildren 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.”