Eric Matzen of Tennessee dresses up as Santa many times a year when the real Santa can’t make it, and Eric does a lot Santa work. One day, as Christmas was nearing, Eric received a call from a nurse at a hospital telling him that a little boy there was very sick and he was asking to see Santa. Eric said he would put his Santa suit on and be on his way there. There was an urgency in the nurses’ voice when she said, “You need to come right now.”
Eric was at the hospital in 15 minutes and as he was preparing to walk into the room, the little boy’s mother gave him a toy so he could give it to her son. He nodded and took the toy, then entered the Intensive Care Unit room. The little boy looked almost asleep, with his eyes half closed. Santa told him that he can’t miss Christmas because he was Santa’s Number One elf. The little boy opened his eyes wider and said, “I am?” Santa assured him that he was and then gave him his toy. well the little boy could barely open it, but when he saw what it was, his smile went so wide, and then he laid his head back down.
And now the little boy had an important question for Santa. “They say I’m gonna die,” he said. “How can I tell when I get to where I’m going?” Santa, holding in his emotions, told him, “Ok… now when you get there, you tell them that you’re Santa’s Number One elf, and I know they’ll let you in.” “They will?” asked the boy. Santa nodded and assured him. Then the boy hugged Santa and asked Santa if he could help him.
Before Santa could say anything else, the little boy, with his arms wrapped around Santa, died. Eric knew he was gone, but he held onto him a few more minutes as he finally let go of those emotions and tears flowed down his cheeks. When the little boy’s family realized what had happened, they all broke down and cried.
As Eric was driving back to his home, he had to pull off of the road several times to regain his composure. It was very hard. That’s just something you can’t let go of. He even thought of given up as Santa’s stand in, but he realized the joy he gave so many children by putting on that big red suit… so he continued. And he continued through the season to make children smile and give them something to look forward to and have hope. And he continued to be jolly.
But behind that long white beard and a belly like bowl full of jelly is a heart that beats with a little crack in it. And that little crack happened back when he hugged a little boy and told him he was his Number One elf.