I saw the opera star Luciano Pavarotti in Central Park in 1993. On the way there I didn’t take the concert seriously at all. I was more interested in the drinking and the friendship of the day. I was in a very me-centric phase of my life. I didn’t appreciate opera or even classical music at the time. In reality, I appreciated very little not named Matt.

I remember one of my friends was in the middle of a humorous story when Pavarotti began singing Schubert’s Ave Maria. And it was like thousands of people all heard their name whispered to them. Everyone, for the the first time that night, became silent and looked up. The fat man was very far away from where we were sitting on our blanket. But we looked up and stared at this well dressed dot hundreds of yards away who was making this angelic noise.

When he sang Ave Maria that night I felt an emotion that I wasn’t partial to at that time in my life. Reverence. His voice was clear and beautiful. Nobody spoke. Any word would’ve sounded harsh, like a curse word. We all felt something together. Everyone in Central Park that night recognized something sacred.

And for that I am thankful. Since then I have often listened to Pavarotti late at night when I’m working. I’ve listened to a lot of music I would’ve scoffed at then.

According to news reports Pavarotti was seriously ill at his home in Italy last night after his kidneys failed and he lost consciousness. Pavarotti underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer last year and is surrounded by members of his family and close friends.

I know next to nothing about the man other than his brilliant voice which he worked hard to maintain. I will pray for him tonight. It is the only thanks I can give.

Post Script: I’m up feeding the baby. It’s 2:55 a.m. The news is reporting Pavarotti passed away. I listen to his “Ave Maria.”