This is what happens when a terminally ill child dies in Santa’s arms.

You’ve probably read or heard the story of Eric Schmitt-Matzen.

He’s a sixty-year old mechanical engineer, who looks every bit the part of Saint Nick. His 6-foot frame carries 310 pounds. His snowy beard is the real thing. He’s professionally trained. Custom-tailored in red.

Eric’s usual role is to spread joy and have fun.

That was until he took an urgent call from an ICU nurse that a five-year old boy’s dying wish was to see Santa Claus. Eric only had time to put on his Santa-laden suspenders.

He rushed to the hospital, where he met several of the boy’s relatives, including his mother.

She had purchased a toy from television’s “PAW Patrol” for her son. Eric delivered it to the boy and helped him unwrap it.

“You know, kids look at things completely different. He was more concerned with missing Christmas than he was of dying.”

Then, Schmitt-Matzen told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’”

Schmitt-Matzen wrapped him in a warm, tight embrace.

“Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”

“I cried all the way home. I was crying so hard, I had a tough time seeing good enough to drive.”

Ministers aren’t usually seen as Santa’s biggest fans.

But I am a fan of Eric’s.

And I am a fan of the nurses, therapists and doctors, who work in the ICU of Children’s Hospitals. I’ve met and watched the work of many of these angels in scrubs. All of them would shake off the term “angel” as a misnomer. They know they’re not perfect. But they are perfect for the need.

Schmitt-Matzen summed it up for me when he shared, “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.’”

But they do take it and they come back for more.

Somebody has to. There’s not enough money in the world to make them do what they do, day after day.

Remember to thank God for critical care workers this Christmas season.

And thank them too. Maybe some Starbucks gift cards or flowers or a simple Christmas card that says, “Merry Christmas. God bless you” delivered to a nurses’ station in a Children’s Hospital near you.

Your kindness will be a help even better than Santa’s.

Read Sam Venable’s full story about Eric in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

APPLICATION: Has your family been helped by someone in the Stollery Children’s Hospital or one like it in your area? Please leave your comment below.


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Bob Jones

Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 40 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vinnie and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love being a pastor and inspiring others through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, reading, and ball hockey. I'm a fan of the Esks, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

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