86-year-old woman with dementia warms up to Santa ─ and makes him cry

An 86-year-old woman deep in the throes of dementia came out to the surface briefly when she encountered her beloved Santa in a photo studio in a New Mexico mall.

“Every time Santa got close to her, she would nuzzle in and close her eyes as if there was no place she would rather be,” the studio wrote on its Facebook page.

“It was so sweet and emotional for Santa and our whole staff.”

The photography studio, Hartsocks’ Photography, said Santa cried when the woman left.

Karen Rangel was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and was recently put on hospice care.

Her family watched in awe how she suddenly returned to life as she held the bearded man’s arm and wouldn't let go. 

"She recognized him, and she talked to him and even afterward she was saying, ‘I miss Santa. I want to see Santa’,” her daughter-in-law Linda Rangel told ABC News.

It turns out Karen’s love for Santa is nothing new. Her son, Steve Rangel, said she has a collection of pictures with Santa.

“It started when we were little," the son said. "And even when we were older, she continued even going by herself to the mall and having her picture taken. She had a frame at home and each year she would change the photo out and give us copies."

The touching scene at the mall has prompted an avalanche of comments on Facebook.

“That is the sweetest thing I've seen. Proof that the magic of this season is still alive!” wrote one.

“This brings joy to my heart. My mom passed away a year ago from Alzehimer’s and in her final stages of life it was the things she enjoyed as a child that put a smile on her face. What a beautiful moment to treasure!” another user said.