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Erin McCole Cupp reflects on how a familiar piece of music became a reminder of Christ's ongoing work of redemption.

This is my first Christmas as a single mom. 

I fought so hard never to have to write those words.  

The process began in the spring: breaking the news to the kids, finding a lawyer, filing with the court, working out how we were going to navigate the inevitable shared events, like the spring piano recital. 

In what felt like a cruel twist, throughout the winter and spring, my youngest daughter had been practicing her big recital piece for the end of the school year: Pachelbel’s Canon in D.  

I walked down the aisle to Canon in D

Of course, I didn’t tell my daughter this. She had enough on her mind, and music had become her go-to outlet of expression. The last place I wanted to cast an additional shadow was between her and the piano. So over and over and over again, as I was going through the most emotionally raw days of my life, my heart was being jabbed at by the sounds of a piece of music I used to love but now was bound up with so much hurt, confusion, maybe even regret.  

I had leaned so heavily on God for guidance when I was discerning marriage. What signs from Him had I missed? Had He just silently let me go down a dark path, knowing full well how dark it would get? Did He just turn his face as three children were born of this increasingly painful relationship?  

No prayer I prayed, fast I fasted, novena I said, therapy I tried, or priest I begged seemed to change anything for the better. From beginning to end, I had tried so hard. How could God have let this happen?  




I made it through the spring recital without crying and I’m pretty sure without any of my kids becoming aware of my Pachelbel problems.  

Spring turned to summer. The kids and I found a new home for the four of us and our piano. I thought that, with the recital past, I was going to get a reprieve from Canon in D.  

I was wrong. She kept playing it, over and over again. 

Summer approached fall. The kids and I set up a new reality within a new budget. Fall slipped towards winter. Things weren’t easy, but they became new and hopeful. The piano repertoire became less Pachelbel and more Mass parts: our family pianist had started organ lessons and was preparing to join the music ministry at our new parish.  

However, one afternoon while I was toting laundry down the stairs, Canon in D came out of the piano again. I stopped to remember the days when she could only play one-handed, and now she was playing complicated classics with confidence and courage. I smiled as I thought of how far she had come, how much she had grown, and how in music she now found joy, competence, plans for her future, and even a growing relationship with God and His Church—one I could not have imagined for her when I walked down the aisle to Canon in D. 

It wasn’t until I started moving again that it hit me: I wasn’t feeling the sting of my own lost dreams. Instead, I was feeling hope.  




In that moment, it hit me: God had known all along how hard I would try to save my marriage. God also knew that, through this experience, I needed to learn that I’m not the One powerful enough to rescue anybody. Still, He would never let my strivings for His glory be in vain.  

In the children of this relationship, He was redeeming my story. Reminders, like music, that could have become bitter memories are instead becoming markers of newfound joy, competence, future hope, and growth in intimacy with the God who was placed in a manger to die on a cross to rise from a tomb.  


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Christmas is a reminder to us all of the beginnings of our redemption: that until we reach the heavenly shores, we can’t know the plan God has for our pain. #CatholicMom


Like Canon in D has become for me, Christmas is a reminder to us all of the beginnings of our redemption: that until we reach the heavenly shores, we can’t know the plan God has for our pain. All we can know is that, no matter what crosses we end up at from our beginnings, no cross is the end of the story. Each cross is its own beginning. 

This is my first Christmas as a single mom. I’m looking forward to seeing how God will redeem that, too. Hopefully this time, I won’t try to so hard to fix what is not mine to fix and will just let Him take care of me, my kids, their dad, and our resurrection. 



Copyright 2023 Erin McCole Cupp
Images: Canva