‘Santa, can you help me?’ Terminally ill boy dies in Santa’s arms

The story of one Santa’s touching gesture has gone viral after a terminally ill five-year-old boy died in his arms.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen, a popular Santa who has worked in the Knoxville area for years, received a call from a local nurse asking for his help.

‘She said there was a very sick five-year-old boy who wanted to see Santa Claus,’ Eric told the News-Sentinel, who was at the hospital within 15 minutes.

‘I said, “What’s this I hear that you think you’re going to miss Christmas?”‘, he said.

‘He just kind of nodded at me, so I said, “No way! Your present’s already been made up for you, and here it is.”‘

‘He said, “They say I’m dying”.’

‘I said, “Will you do me a favor?”‘

‘He said, “Sure!”‘

Eric J. Schmitt-Matzen

Eric J. Schmitt-Matzen added a new photo.

Eric, 60, then told the little boy: ‘When you get to those pearly gates, you tell ’em you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.’

Eric had requested that any loved ones leave the room if they felt they were going to cry during the visit.

‘I have to be the happy guy that makes this kid feel great and smile and forget his worries,’ he explained to the BBC.

However, the boy then asked for a hug and said ‘Santa, will you help me?’, before sadly passing away in Eric’s arms.

‘When I felt the life go from him, I looked up, tears running down my face, and looked over at the window and that’s when [his] mom started screaming.’

Eric J. Schmitt-Matzen

Eric J. Schmitt-Matzen added a new photo.

As he left the hospital, Eric cried the whole way home, and told interviewers that the incident had left him questioning whether he could continue with his job.

‘I was a basket case for three days. It took me a week or two to stop thinking about it all the time,’ he said. ‘Actually, I thought I might crack up and never be able to play the part again’ – until the sight of some children laughing and playing changed his mind.

‘It made me realize the role I have to play. For them and for me.’