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Story of Santa Claus and a Dying Boy Called into Question

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On Tuesday, a story out of Tennessee lit up social media like the gargantuan Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. The story was about a man who plays a pretty authentic looking Santa Claus right down to his real whiskers and his gift to a dying boy. But now some are calling the facts of the story into question. The original story goes like this.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen’s plays Santa Claus in real life. And what a job it is. Spreading joy and hope and love from the never-ending supply in his magical canvas bag. Helping parents give children their heart’s desire. What could be a better job than that?

10696205_10201898608745569_2363341652091949007_n Photo: Facebook/Eric J. Schmitt-Matzen

Except for the one time when Schmitt-Matzen’s job wasn’t fun. That one-day several weeks ago, prior to all the annual Christmas hub-bub, when his phone rang. On the other end of the phone was a nurse he knew that worked at a children’s hospital. His nurse friend made a special request of him. She asked him to come immediately to the hospital to a dying 12-year old boy’s bedside.

When he arrived he asked to visit the boy alone afraid that the emotion of the situation would affect his ability to play the happy jolly role that usually came so easily to him. The boy’s mother handed him a special toy she had bought for her son and she and other family members watched from the window outside as Santa made his way to the boy.

Santa and the child had a brief conversation. Santa told the boy he was his number one elf. The boy knowing that his life was slipping away asked Santa to help him. Santa folded the boy into his arms where after a few breaths, the boy slipped away.

The child’s death had a devastating effect on Schmitt-Matzen. He was unable to go for a planned visit with his grandchildren the day after the boy passed away, and his wife went alone instead. He was so upset over the boy’s death he didn’t think he could find it in himself to don the red suit ever again. But then he decided to give it one last try. And what he discovered was what he knew all along. He didn’t play Santa Claus for himself, but for all the children that sat on his knee whispering their biggest wishes and tugging at his real whiskers.  He couldn’t give it up. Those tiny smiles, those squeals of delight carried him through the pain of the recent loss. His decision made to carry on, he took a deep breath, guffawed a “ho, ho, ho,” and got on with the business of spreading the Christmas spirit.

But the newspaper, the Knoxville News Sentinel, that originally reported the story said yesterday they have been unable to independently verify the facts of Schmitt-Matzen’s story, such as the hospital’s location, the mother or family members of the child, or the nurse who called Schmitt-Matzen. Schmitt-Matzen says he doesn’t want to give up the details due to privacy issues, but for some, his story just doesn’t jingle true.

To watch the original video of this Santa’s story, click here.