Angelina Marie Thompsen faced illness with grace and courage
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL Staff Reporter December 30, 2013 7:50PM
Angelina Marie Thompsen and her husband Brandon Thompsen.
Updated: February 3, 2014 2:49PM
Brandon Thompsen’s first Christmas with his wife was their last.
He married Angelina Marie Thompsen on Dec. 22, 2012. Within six months, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. They had five more months together before she died in November at 36.
Their 11-month marriage was filled with lessons in courage and grace. Though she vowed to fight it, “Angie” knew things were bad. She began to prepare him, every time she said, “When you’re 60,” and “When you have kids.”
Now he realizes she didn’t include herself in those phrases. “I want you to have your happily-ever-after,” she’d say.
“I already do,” he’d respond.
Opposites attracted — he was a self-described “preppy little suburbanite” from Oak Park. She was a blue-collar Bridgeport girl who grew up in a four-room apartment in a neighborhood where people seemed to add the letter “S” to a lot of words — as in “I’m going to the Jewels” or “Soldiers Field.” After her machinist father died when she was 19, she moved home from DePaul University to help care for her little brother, Johnnie, and assist her mother, Linda Harris, with the bills.
They met when he went to a job interview at Tripp Lite, a Bridgeport electrical manufacturer where she worked in product management. He’d rarely been to the South Side, except for the odd White Sox game. He kept checking to make sure his car doors were locked.
She sat in on the interview, but he found her so distractingly cute, he couldn’t look her in the eye. Instead, he focused on a male manager who asked him questions. She found him arrogant.
Things began to thaw after he was hired. And pretty soon, they were like Jim and Pam on “The Office,” communicating private volumes of mirth or disbelief through a glance or a raised eyebrow.
He fell in love with her, a woman he describes as “completely and utterly out of my league.”
“I’m very average looking and bald,” he said. But she told him he looked great. “She ate up all the little things about myself I didn’t like.”
Their relationship was “a succession of new best days of my life,” he wrote in her eulogy. “We started dating, best day of my life. We moved in together, new best day of my life. She accepted my proposal, new best day of my life. I saw her walking down the aisle toward me. . . .new best day of my life.”
She had a curio cabinet full of angel figurines, Brandon Thompsen said, a tribute to the name Angie’s mother bestowed on her “miracle baby” because of health problems before the birth.
She loved TV. Their DVR was busy, recording the “Real Housewives,’’ “Mob Wives” and “The Walking Dead.”
A voracious reader, Mrs. Thompsen always had her Kindle in front of her as she watched TV. She liked authors Mary Higgins Clark, James Patterson and Sue Grafton.
“Never into the girly stuff, those romantic movies, like Nicholas Sparks,” her husband said. “She was a tough South Side chick.”
After her cancer diagnosis, “She woke up every day telling me she was going to win. She allowed me and everyone else around her hope,” he wrote.
When he broke the news to her in November that she wouldn’t be going home from the hospital, she smiled, held his hand and said, “I know.”
“And it became so clear, she knew for a long time. She was giving me those gifts of hope and time,” he wrote.
“Angie could have been plucked from me suddenly,” his eulogy said. “Instead, we were fortunate to have time. And it was very often bad time and hard time, but it was still time. Time to come home to each other, time to wake up next to each other, to go to bed with each other, to sit and talk and hug and kiss and live our lives together.”
During her final hours, a guitarist visited her hospital room. Her husband asked if she wanted to hear their wedding song, Tim McGraw’s “My Best Friend.’’ They held hands and moved their lips to the lyrics.
Mrs. Thompsen drifted off. Her husband, mother and brother thought she was gone. But when a nurse came in with a stethoscope, she discovered her heart was still beating. They listened for themselves.
“You’re still here,” Brandon Thompsen marveled. He told her he loved her one last time, and that it was OK to go. “We weren’t saying goodbye, we were saying ‘see you later.’ ”
In the casket, her family placed her “Bride” T-shirt from last December. And he tucked in what she used to call her “Bag of Brandon,” a container filled with all the little cards and notes he’d ever left her. He thought of keeping them, but “She has them with her, and I hope she feels loved.”
Mrs. Thompsen is also survived by another brother, Mike. Services were held.
“I was ready to be a nurse for 50 years,” her husband said.