Matt Mauser — who lost his wife in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and six others last year — impressed the judges on America's Got Talent with his emotional rendition of "Against All Odds".
Mauser's wife Christina was a basketball coach at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy before she died in the tragic accident in January 2020. "When she left that day, she kissed me and she said, 'I love you,'" he recalled during the Tuesday, July 6, episode. "And that was the last thing my wife ever said to me."
The 51-year-old explained that he and his wife — who shared Penny, Thomas and Ivy — had "a dreamy kind of life" together after meeting in 2004 when she saw him performing with his band. "She was just this very humble, powerful, beautiful human being," Mauser told host Terry Crews.
Following her death, Mauser said his focus "immediately went to my children," and that he knows his wife "would want me to carry on, and she would want our kids to have happy lives ... I don't know if it's possible, but I'm gonna try."
Mauser's children watched backstage as he covered Phil Collins' 1981 song.
"We felt your emotion," Howie Mandel said following Mauser's performance. "If you're able to move strangers, and we can feel it in our hearts... there aren't words to describe it."
"There was just a different kind of vibe in your voice. When you were singing it, it definitely went inside of me. It was beautiful, it was sad," Heidi Klum told the singer. "As a man, as a strong man, standing there, I don't know, it was very special."
"It was very emotional, very touching," Sofia Vergara agreed. "Thank you. Thank you for being here."
When Simon Cowell asked the dad-of-three what he wanted to get out of AGT, Mauser responded, "I'd like to make sure that my children see that, in spite of the grief that we've been through this year, that that grief is not going to define who we are as a family. And that my children see that you have to find joy in life and you have to continue.
"If this can in any way help my children see that you have to chase your dreams, then I'll take it," he added.
"The audition process was extremely challenging because I had to not only master the phrasing of the song but I also had to conquer my emotions while singing it. On top of that, having to do it in front of millions of people made it nerve-racking as well. Christina was on my mind and I definitely felt her presence during the whole process," Mauser reflected to PEOPLE.
"They are my whole world and I wanted to show them that you have to keep moving forward despite tragedies in life," he told the outlet of his kids. "I want them to look back in 20 years and think 'Dad didn't give up, Dad fought.'"
After earning four yes votes, Mauser is now moving on to the next round.