Grab your tissues, because you're going to need them after watching this powerful, emotional audition on America's Got Talent. Matt Mauser, a widower and father of three, dedicated his audition performance to his late wife, Christina. She was tragically killed in the same helicopter crash that took the lives of Kobe and Gigi Bryant, among others.
Mauser tells PEOPLE he wanted to audition for America's Got Talent because he hoped to win the $1 million prize money for his wife's foundation, which he created to provide scholarships and financial aid to female athletes.
"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," he says. "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 sang an emotional rendition of "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" by Phil Collins—go ahead and have that tissue on hand.
Matt Mauser Brings a Heartbreaking Story and an Emotional Performance - America's Got Talent 2021 www.youtube.com
"I'm here because my wife and I, we were both school teachers and we retired from teaching so that I could do the music full-time, and she got the opportunity to coach girls basketball with Kobe Bryant. But on Jan. 26, 2020, I lost my wife in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant," Mauser says in the audition clip, describing his back story to the surprised judges. "You know if I had it my way, I would have my wife and I'd be supporting her but that's not what happened. You know it's been a rough year but here I am."
He described his life with his wife of 15 years as "dreamy" and shared her final words to him before leaving to board the helicopter on that fateful day.
"When she left that day, she kissed me and she said, 'I love you.' And that was the last thing my wife ever said to me," he says. "Your whole life changes in a second. My focus immediately went to my children. You start to say, 'All right she would want me to carry on.' She would want our kids to have happy lives, which I don't know if it's possible but I'm going to try."
Mauser said he also wanted to audition because of his children—Penny, Thomas, and Ivy.
"They are my whole world and I wanted to show them that you have to keep moving forward despite tragedies in life," he says. "I want them to look back in 20 years and think 'Dad didn't give up, Dad fought.'"
After his performance, the judges were understandably moved.
"Your wife is always here, that is her legacy," judge Howie Mandel said as he pointed to Mauser's three kids, who were just off-stage supporting their dad. "You are her legacy. This moment is her legacy."
Best of luck to Matt Mauser on his America's Got Talent journey. What a beautiful way to honor his wife and the mother of his children.