This afternoon, Caroll Spinney—the man under the Big Bird costume—did a Reddit AMA... and it made everything very dusty in here. One fan asked that he share a meaningful interaction with a child, and here's the gut-wrenching, tear-jerker of a story that he provided:

Okay, here's one. This is a very sad story, but it's real.

I got a letter from a fan who said his little boy, who was 5 years old, his name was Joey, he was dying of cancer. And he was so ill, the little boy knew he was dying.

So the man, in his letter, asked if I would call the little boy. He said the only thing that cheered him at all in his fading state was to see Big Bird on television. So once in a while, he wouldn't see Big Bird on some days, because he wasn't necessarily in every show. So he asked could I telephone him, and talk to the boy, tell him what a good boy he's been.

So I took a while to look up a phone, because this was before cell phones. And they got a long cord to bring a phone to the boy. And I had Big Bird say "Hello! Hello Joey! It's me, Big Bird!"

So he said "Is it really you, Big Bird?"

"Yes, it is."

I chatted a while with him, about ten minutes, and he said "I'm glad you're my friend Big Bird." And I said "I'd better let you go now." He said "Thank you for calling me Big Bird. You're my friend. You make me happy."

And it turns out that his father and mother were sitting with him when the phone call came. And he was very, very ill that day. And they called the parents in, because they weren't sure how long he'd last. And so his father wrote to me right away, and said "Thank you, thank you"—he hadn't seen him smile since October, and this was in March—and when the phone was hung up, he said "Big Bird called me! He's my friend."

And he closed his eyes. And he passed away.

And I could see that what I say to children can be very important.

And he said "We haven't seen our little boy smile in MONTHS. He smiled, as he passed away. It was a gift to us. Thank you."

Spinney has been coming out from under the costume to help promote the documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story. You can read the rest of the AMA right here. And this week you can see him yourself at the IFC Center, where he'll be doing Q&As after screenings tonight, tomorrow and Saturday—get all the details here.