Gomez: What's in a moment?

October 11, 2012|By Alisha Gomez
  • Terry McKenna, left, and Suzanne Caffey-McKenna in their Emerald Bay home.
Terry McKenna, left, and Suzanne Caffey-McKenna in their… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Moment: An exact point in time.

Emerald Bay couple Terry McKenna and Suzanne Caffey-McKenna's first "moment" happened on a cruise ship about 10 years ago.

Suzanne was with her then 14-year-old grandson, and Terry went on the Alaskan cruise at the encouragement of his family, following the passing of his wife after a years-long battle with Alzheimer's.

"I had been widowed for four years," Terry said about that chance meeting with Suzanne, "and two nights before getting off the cruise ship ... we met at the gaming table. We didn't spend much time together, just chatted, and I went off to bed."

The following night, just before the cruise was ending, they met up a second time and got acquainted. Again, it really wasn't much time.

Their big moment came the day after, when they smacked into each other at the airport.

"I bumped into her ... out of 2,000 or more people," Terry said.


They exchanged numbers and email addresses and communicated back and forth long distance for a bit.

"It was a God thing," Suzanne added, "I know, to have this blessing and how we have come together."

Eventually, Terry moved out to California for Suzanne. The two have been married for almost six years now. They share three children, two stepchildren and 11 grandchildren — all from Suzanne's side of the family.

On the surface, Terry and Suzanne appear to have a picture-perfect life. Dig a little deeper and a fuller picture is revealed. Both have experienced loss: Suzanne has been widowed twice, and Terry, of course, lost his wife too. Now they are dealing with Suzanne's diagnosis of leukemia, which they found out about in June 2010.

"Everything is more important. Every moment is treasured," Suzanne first said back in June as we chatted in her living room about her diagnosis.

"Now I really do know what it means to be in the moment," she added.

I was first drawn to them because of their work with Alzheimer's — Suzanne's sister suffers from the disease — and the Alzheimer's Family Services Center in Huntington Beach. Terry served on the board of directors there for three years. They were honored by the center earlier this year and coincidentally, in reading the press release, I discovered they had also been part of an HBO documentary, "The Alzheimer's Project." Their segment touched on life after Alzheimer's and how they met and fell in love.

I didn't expect to walk away with more to the story, and then they informed me of Suzanne's disease.

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