Sometimes we measure life in years. Sometimes we measure life in minutes. Sometimes it only takes a second or two for something magical and important to happen. When it does we are reminded of the just how precious the gift of life is. We are also reminded just how precious the gift of magic and imagination are to the lives of children.

Eric Schmitt-Matzen bears a striking resemblance to a very famous character. The 60-year old Tennessee man dresses as Santa for about 80 events in and around his hometown in Tennessee every year.

This year Schmitt-Matzen and all of us will have a special reason to treasure those Santa "helpers" that bring the sparkle to the season for so many youngsters this time of year. Eric Schmitt-Matzen says he was summoned to a Nashville area hospital by a nurse with a very special request.

That request was for Santa to make a visit to a very sick 5-year old boy.  Schmitt-Matzen slipped into his Santa suit and rushed over to the hospital in time to hand the very sick young man a special gift. It was a Paw Patrol toy the boy had asked for.

During his visit with the Jolly old elf, the boy asked,

They say I'm gonna die. How can I tell when I get to where I'm going?

Schmitt-Matzen replied in his best Santa voice.

When you get there, you tell 'em you're Santa's number one elf, and I know they'll let you in.

It was then Santa reached down to give the boy a hug. It was at that time the spirit of the young man left his worldly body to continue its journey to a place that knows no pain and no more sickness.

I spent four years in the Army with the 75th Rangers, and I've seen my share of (stuff). But I ran by the nurses' station bawling my head off. I know nurses and doctors see things like that every day, but I don't know how they can take it.

Schmitt-Matzen said this moment touched him so deeply he wasn't even able to visit his own grandchildren the next day. He even wondered if he could slip into his role as Santa ever again.

He did put on the red fur trimmed suit again weeks later at local shopping mall.

When I saw all those children laughing, it brought me back into the fold. It made me realize the role I have to play, for them and for me.

Information for this article was provided by reports originally published in the Knoxville News Sentinel and and the Times-Picayune.

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