A gentle reminder to spend time with the people, things you love

Clarkcountytoday.com Columns Tuesday

When I walked into my office this morning, the first thing I noticed was the red blinking light on my phone indicating that I had a voicemail. I methodically picked up the phone and hit the voicemail button as I’ve done hundreds of times before, and grabbed a pen and a notebook in order to write down a phone number if I needed to.

Joanna Yorke, Reporter
Joanna Yorke, Reporter

As soon as I heard the first few words of the voicemail, however, I set my pen down, my heart sank and my eyes began to tear up. The voice leaving the message was La Center resident Jeff Siebert, one of the owners of the famous Curly the Camel. Jeff was calling to let me know that his wife, Marilyn, who had been battling cancer over the past several months, passed away this morning.

“I just wanted to let you know that Marilyn passed away this morning, and went home to be with her God,” Jeff said slowly in the message, his voice full of emotion.

Jeff then went on to tell me that I had done “such a great job” on an article that I recently wrote about Marilyn and her battle with cancer, and thanked me for “everything I had done.” There was no stopping the tears at that point. This man had just lost his beloved wife, and yet he still found it necessary to take the time to call me and thank me, and let me know that she had passed away.

Jeff and Marilyn Siebert, of La Center, are “parents” to Curly the Camel, who is well known to many around the Clark County area. Marilyn passed away this morning, Feb. 21, after battling cancer for the past several months. Photo from the Curly the Camel Facebook page
Jeff and Marilyn Siebert, of La Center, are “parents” to Curly the Camel, who is well known to many around the Clark County area. Marilyn passed away this morning, Feb. 21, after battling cancer for the past several months. Photo from the Curly the Camel Facebook page

Although I had heard about Curly the Camel several times, and probably even wrote about him a few times during my time as a reporter at The Reflector Newspaper, I had never talked with his “parents,” Jeff and Marilyn, until first talking with Jeff just last month. A family member had messaged us at ClarkCountyToday.com about Marilyn’s sudden diagnosis and the struggle that the family was going through, so I gave Jeff a call so I could talk with him about what was going on and help share their story.

From the moment I first talked with Jeff on the phone last month, I was blown away by his unwavering faith and his insistence that people need to remember what is important in their lives and make sure they spend as much time as they can with the people they love.

Again, I have never met this man and had never spoken with him until that particular day last month, but as I listened to him talk about the love he has for his wife and how much her diagnosis had affected their family, I cried. My heart hurt for this amazing man and his family as I thought about the pain and hardships they would have to endure as they went through the process of losing a wife, mother, friend and more.

I will be the first to admit that I am an extremely emotional person — I feel many of my emotions intensely, usually much more intensely than I would like to. That being said, however, I’ve always been someone who expresses those intense emotions privately. I don’t cry often, if ever, in front of other people, and I tend to wait until I’m alone and can reflect on a situation to let my emotions out.

I have never cried while talking with someone for a story until that day while I was talking with Jeff. The message he wanted to convey just really hit me, and hit me hard.

“What takes away from time, what takes away from each other,” Jeff had said to me when we talked last month. “I wish I could have any time back that I wasn’t spending with Marilyn. It’s all about remembering what’s important in life, what’s important is just spending time with what/who you love. If you love your wife and your kids and your pets, that’s what you spend your time with. If you allow the things going on in this world to pull you away from the important stuff, it takes away from that time.”

Jeff’s thoughts on time really resonated with me that day. I thought about all of the time that I’ve wasted worrying about things that, at the end of the day, aren’t important. As human beings, we constantly worry about money, our jobs, our reputations, how other people see us, politics, etc. But when it comes down to it, these are not the things in life that we should be spending time on.

I encourage everyone today, including myself, to listen to Jeff’s advice and reflect on what is truly important to you in this life. And then, whatever that may be (your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings, your dog, your cat), devote some time to that person/pet/thing today and every day, and don’t take those things you love for granted.

I know Marilyn will be deeply missed by too many people to even count in this community and beyond. My thoughts are with Jeff and the rest of Marilyn’s family and friends today as they deal with this devastating loss, and my thoughts are also with all of the animals (Curly included) who I know considered Marilyn to be their “mom.”

Anyone wishing to read the original article that I wrote about Jeff, Marilyn and Curly can find it here.

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About The Author

Joanna Nicole Yorke is a 2010 graduate of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in political science. Yorke is a Clark County native, growing up on her family's 12-acre farm in La Center where her family still resides today. She was previously a reporter at The Reflector Newspaper, covering the city of Battle Ground, the Battle Ground School District and a variety of other areas and topics.

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