|Eric Schmitt-Matzen, aka Santa, did a hero's job for a|
dying boy. Just the dose of humanity we needed
This is disillusioning, but the Knoxville News Sentinel is now saying they can't verify the veracith of this story.
A statement from the News-Sentinel says in part:
"Since publication the News-Sentinel has done additional investigation in an attempt to independently verify Schmitt-Matzen's acount. This has proven unsuccessful.
Although facts about his background have checked out, his story of bringing a gift to a dying child remains unverified. The News-Sentinel cannot establish that Schmitt-Matzens' account is inaccurate, but more importantly, ongoing reporting cannot establish that it is accurate."
If there are further updates, I'll either update or delete the post, whichever is most appropriate.
You know damn well there's a Kleenex warning with this story.
The viral story going around now is about the hospitalized child in Tennessee dying in Santa's arms.
The whole thing is hopelessly sad and tragic, obviously, save for one bright spot. The man who was playing Santa, Eric Schmitt-Matzen, is an absolutely beautiful human being.
When not Santa, the white-bearded, six foot one, 310 pound man is president of a company called Packing Seals & Engineering in Tennessee.
I'm sure he's a great mechanical engineer and CEO, but Schmitt-Matzen gave us all a welcome dose of humanity in a world that seems sorely lacking in that department.
There's a heartrending video interview with Schmitt-Matzen at the bottom of this post, but if it is too much to watch, what follows is a narrative of this simultaneously terrible and beautiful story.
According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, the story begins with an urgent telephone call.
It was a nurse from the hospital Schmitt-Matzen knew. She told him to come right away for a sick five year old boy. The nurse told him don't even change into your whole Santa Clause outfit. There wasn't time.
I'll let Sam Venable, an author, storyteller and columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel pick up the story here:
"Schmitt-Matzen got to the hospital in 15 minutes. He met the lad's mother and several family members.
'She'd bought at 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 lse it, please leave the rom. If I see you crying, I'll break down and can't do my job.'"
Venable wrote that nobody entered the room with Santa, but watched, sobbing, through a hallway window in the hospital's ICU.
Schmitt-Matzen continued, as relayed by Venable:
"'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 ad 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 theyll let you in.'
He said, 'They will?'
I said, 'Sure!'
He kind of sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: 'Santa, can you help me?'
I wrapped my arms aroud him. Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him."
And so, Schmitt-Matzen, aka Santa, sent the boy on his next journey, whereever that might be.
The boys mother ran into the room, screaming, "No, No not yet!" Schmitt-Matzen handed the boy back to his mother and fled the hospital in tears.
He said he cried so hard driving home he could barely see the road. That's understandable.
What's also understandable is Schmitt-Matzen considered giving up his Santa gig after this. He just didn't have the heart to do it.
But he did one more gig, which was fortunate. Schmitt-Matzen said, "When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold, it made me realize the role I have to play....For them and for me."
At 54 years old, I'm too old to believe in Santa. Or am I?
No, a fat, happy old man from the North Pole is not going to come down my chimney Christmas Eve and give me presents.
You can call people like Schmitt-Matzen what you want. Great human beings, Good Samaritans, or guardian angels.
Or you could call him Santa. This time of year, when I hear stories like this, I'm glad that Santa lives on, not in some hokey television commercial that demands that you Buy, Buy, Buy!, but in the quiet grace of Schmitt-Matzen, aka Santa.
It seems like there's so little of Schmitt-Matzen's type in the world today, in a time when people feel like they have "permission" to scream insults and threats at people they don't like.
I, like everybody else, shed a tear when I read about Schmitt Matzen and the dying boy. Not only for the context of the story, but because it makes me know there are still people like him out there.
Here's the video. (Warning, it's a real tear-jerker, but worth watching)