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A Grieving Dad Asked Santa to Take This Heartbreakingly Beautiful Photo

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Last week, a grieving father asked a Santa Claus at the Georgia Square Mall in Athens, Georgia, to pose for a photograph holding a picture of his son Hayden, who passed away last year.

That Santa, actor Caleb Ryan Sigmon, agreed.

Baby Hayden
Photo via Caleb Ryan Sigmon

“I didn’t ask any questions, but I am guessing this is [Hayden’s] first photo with Santa,” Sigmon wrote in a moving Facebook post alongside the photo that’s been shared more than 32,000 times in two days. In it, you see Santa looking down at a framed image of a smiling baby wearing a hospital band. Hayden’s father told Sigmon the photo would be a gift for his wife this year.

“I’m sharing this to remind us all that Christmastime is unbelievably hard for some families,” Sigmon wrote. “Pray for the brokenhearted. Smile at people. Just be kind. Love one another.”

Stories From The Big Chair:A man walked in today holding something in his arms. “I have a request,” he said, turning… Posted by Caleb Ryan Sigmon on Wednesday, December 9, 2015
  The Facebook post reads:

Stories From The Big Chair:

A man walked in today holding something in his arms. “I have a request,” he said, turning around this picture frame. He took a moment. “My son passed away, last year.” He choked up and couldn’t finish his sentence. The entire photo set was silent. I said, “Absolutely.” Without anyone saying anything, he handed me the frame and I placed it on my knee. In the photo, I could see on the little boy’s armband that his first name was Hayden. I didn’t ask any questions, but I am guessing that this is his first photo with Santa. The camera snap was the only sound I could hear through the entire mall. Normally, I hear all kinds of music and sounds, but it was absolutely silent. After a handful of clicks, we walked over to the screen and he pointed, saying, “That’s the one.” The girl working the computer printed him a full photo package and he pulled out his wallet, saying that this was going to be his gift to his wife. We gave him the printed package, telling him that it was a gift and that we would be praying for his family, this Christmas. He grabbed my hand and pulled me in and hugged me, then turned around and left. As he walked out, we all had tears in their eyes. I’m sharing this to remind us all that Christmastime is unbelievably hard for some families. Pray for the brokenhearted. Smile at people. Just be kind. Love one another.

The Toymaker
Photo via Caleb Ryan Sigmon

Sigmon, from Hudson, North Carolina, has worked as a mall Santa for two years, but really he’s been preparing for this role since he was 3 and assembled a suit, sleigh and reindeer in his grandma’s living room. A few years later she made him his first custom suit. He began dressing as St. Nick for elementary school and later high school chorus concerts. “I got hooked!” he told The Mighty in an email. The pastime is a family affair. His dad worked with Santa for a good number of years alongside his mom doing home visits free-of-charge.

Caleb Sigmon
Photo via Caleb Ryan Sigmon

About two weeks before Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, Sigmon works about 400 hours. He shares moments from work on Facebook, calling the series “Stories From the Big Chair.” His posts have become so popular among his friends that he’s considering turning them into a book or one-man show.

Despite the hundreds of photos he’s taken, he’s never had a moment quite like the one with Hayden’s father. He told The Mighty:

People ask Santa things they just don’t tell other people. Not just children, but grownups, too. Of course, there are adults that ask for a fancy Corvette or joke about being on the “Nice List” this year… But there are also those that ask for very serious things. I’ve had more adults ask me for jobs this year than ever. They are asking me for a Christmas miracle. How do you respond to that? I once had a man in a wheelchair ask me for legs. I've been asked by boys and girls to bring their father home or the keep their parents together.

I can't do these things, but what I can do is pray for them.  I make them that promise, and I keep it. Some instances have allowed me to pray for them right on the spot.  This is a responsibility of my job that I take very seriously.

Originally published: December 13, 2015
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