Lauren Engle appeared on the fourth episode of Idol Sunday night with her brother-in-law, singing an original song titled "Compass" dedicated to her late husband, Garrett. Before she sang though, Engle revealed a tragic story that detailed how she became a widow at the tender age of 27.
"Last year, I was involved in a terrible car accident with my husband and losing him made me realize I've got nothing else to do, but to keep doing music and to honor him," Engle said in a confessional interview before the audition.
Sharing how the two first met at a Halloween party seven years ago, the two became fast friends and connected through music as he played guitar while she sang. After high school, she stepped away from music, but it was Garrett who continued to encourage her with the art form.
Soon after, Garrett proposed to her on Engle's 22nd birthday with mementos calling back to their initial meeting. The two got married September 2014, with Engle revealing he cried like a baby.
"What we would normally do on Sundays is go and get dinner, we just had a really fun night out and next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital," Engle said. "We were at an intersection, someone had ran a red light and T-boned us."
Garrett didn't survive, with Engle saying in a "split second" everything was gone.
"I never thought being 27 years old, I'd be a widow," she said through tears.
When Idol host Ryan Seacrest asks her how she got through it all, she admits that "no matter what you go through, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel" and she is still trying to find it every day.
While singing with Garrett is something she will always miss, she tells the judges that her brother-in-law stands in his place as a way to honor him.
After she sang, the judges weighed in with Perry saying she was emotionally invested in the performance and "felt the pain" in her words.
"I don't know how you did it myself," Richie interjects.
"It's been a struggle," Engle responds.
After they vote, Perry votes yes for her "and Garrett," along with Bryan and Richie, who tells her she has a mission for the rest of her life to be herself.
"Without a doubt, it's yes. You're going to Hollywood my dear," Richie said.
Engle says after the accident she questioned herself and wondered why she was still here. "Today there is still a purpose and to fight hard for it," she said.
This isn't the first time the judges connected emotionally with a contestant this season. In the Season 2 premiere episode, Bryan couldn't hide his feelings after meeting with a singer who lost both his brothers to suicide.
Los Angeles resident Nick Townsend shared a devastating story of his two brothers who died by suicide with the judges before performing a powerful rendition of "Let It Go" by James Bay that earned him a unanimous trip to Hollywood.
Townsend said the loss of his brothers helped him to pursue his dream. "They'd be really proud that I'm here."
Bryan, who lost his two siblings, was clearly affected while fighting back tears.
"I haven't brought this up on the show, because I haven't had to, but I've lost both my siblings, and I just applaud you for keeping a positive attitude and continuing to fight and just try to be a light for your parents, man," he told Townsend, tearing up.
The country star's older brother, Chris, passed away in 1996 at the age of 26 after a car crash; while his sister, Kelly died in 2001 at the age of 39 after collapsing at home.0comments
"We'll be praying for you," he told the singer later, embracing him before addressing his family, reminding them, "It's alright to cry good tears, it's alright to cry good ones. Remember fun, happy, good days. Enjoy those."
American Idol airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.