Wedding songs are funny things. A lot of them are grand and lovely things indeed. Others are glimpses of look what we found! blissful young love. I cherish some of these songs and cringe at others. Such is the optimism of the wedding song. It captures a moment in a relationship that can be challenging to sustain over a lifetime.

For me, at 25 years into a relationship and almost 24 years into our marriage, our choice of wedding song still resonates as a guide for marriage over the long haul. I first heard it on the radio driving around in the Amherst, Massachusetts area where I was working as a rowing coach. I’d started dating Kris, who lived closer to Boston, earlier in 1994 and we both knew early on that this was the one. I still remember the moment when I latched onto the lyric There ‘neath the oak’s bough soon we will be wed and focused on the rest of the song intently. This was before Shazam so I wrote down what I Bruce Springsteen and some of the lyrics to try to find it later. I wish I still had that scrap of paper. Technically I was still married to someone else and the divorce wasn’t yet finalized. The betrayal, embarrassment and shock of that divorce were still fresh in my mind as they surely were for Bruce Springsteen when he wrote these words:

We said we’d walk together baby come what may
That come the twilight should we lose our way
If as we’re walking a hand should slip free
I’ll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me

We swore we’d travel darlin’ side by side
We’d help each other stay in stride
But each lover’s steps fall so differently
But I’ll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now everyone dreams of love lasting and true
Oh, but you and I know what this world can do
So let’s make our steps clear that the other may see
I’ll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now there’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead
There ‘neath the oak’s bough soon we will be wed
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I’ll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me
Darlin’ I’ll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me

Yeah, I’ll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me
I’ll wait for you
Should I fall behind
Wait for me

These lyrics aren’t young love idealism, it’s hard-earned realism with a commitment to making it work. Springsteen wrote this song for Patti Scialfa after living through his own divorce, and the place he was in at the writing of the song was very similar to where I was when I first heard it. I’m not in that place now, but the funny thing about If I Should Fall Behind is that it grows with you like an old friend and mentor, offering guidance in the down moments and a warm embrace in the good moments.

I’m not sure what the next 25 years will bring, but I’m optimistic about the future. The ebb and flow of life together offers challenges and opportunities alike. You and I know what this world can do, so let’s make our steps clear that the other may see. I’ll wait for you, and if I should fall behind, please wait for me.