This will be my last column from a tumultuous year that, I must admit, I am happy to see come to an end.

I lost two close friends to cancer, watched another battle the demons of addiction and more than once had my faith challenged in a way that left me down on my knees struggling for answers.

While 2013 posed few highlights, it has ended on a high note – and I hope to carry that momentum into 2014.

As many friends and readers know, my family’s little wiener dog Marley suffered a sudden paralysis that left her two back legs paralyzed. Stacy and I rushed her to have emergency surgery on Good Friday – yeah, how’s that for an oxymoron? – and she underwent a lengthy surgical procedure that went well into the night.

On the following Monday, we received a call that the procedure had not worked. I was devastated. We went and picked her up, wondering what her – and our – life would be like.

Thanks to a miracle worker named Dr. Patricia Perkins, Marley is now walking. Are you ready for this? Chinese herbs, acupuncture and chiropractic procedures have her back to about 75 percent of where she was before the sudden paralysis.

She no longer jumps on the kitchen table, steals a piece of fried chicken off a plate and dashes behind the couch to consume it, but that’s okay. We go for long walks, she follows me and Stacy to whatever room we happen to be in and doesn’t seem to notice that she wobbles and bobbles like she’s had a few too many at the local watering hole.

My oldest son, Zach, has become the coffee guru of St. Louis. He has participated in many national barista and coffee-related contests and brought home enough hardware to fill a spare bedroom. If you go to Mike Shannon’s in St. Louis, you’re drinking Zach’s Goshen Coffee.

Like his dad, he has discovered that when you do something you love, you never really work a day in your life. He’s a lucky young man.

So is my youngest son, Sean, who has found his niche in the demanding automobile industry. He’s a natural at what he does, and nothing makes me happier than when a coach or fan of a local team comes up to me at an event and says, “I took my car into your son’s dealership, and he really took care of me.”

Stacy and I celebrated 32 years or marriage. I don’t know how she’s put up with me for more than three decades. She is my soulmate, my best friend and the only person who can tell me to trim my nose hair without offending me. And I swear, she’s prettier today than she was when I met her at my brother’s house in Country Meadows 33 years ago.

This May I will celebrate my 32nd year at The Examiner, and I believe this could be a special year for a place that has been a part of me for more than half my lifetime. I have the best seats in the house to watch players like Dalvin Warmack, Elijah Lee, Nathan Iloilo and the Big Smarties, Josh Watson and Paige Parker.

I’ve witnessed history as coach Kelly Donohoe’s Wildcats brought back-to-back Class 6 state championships to Blue Springs High School. To see young men you would be honored to call your son accomplish a goal like this made it even more special.

The Missouri Mavericks and Missouri Comets treat me like a member of their respective families, and I believe each of those teams will bring a championship to Independence in 2014. Scott Hillman and Brent Thiessen have built the best team in the five-year history of the Mavericks, and Danny Waltman, Leo Gibson, Byron Alvarez and Brian Harris will not be denied in the MISL championship game this season.

As many of you know, I recently had my 60th birthday party at the Grain Valley Community Center, and the turnout on an icy December night left me speechless. So many of our friends helped Stacy put on the event and the Plowboys barbeque (the real reason most people came) was a big hit.

And I can never thank those who brought money and gift certificates that were turned over to the Independence, Blue Springs and Grain Valley Community Service Leagues and the Great Plains Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Nearly $740 in cash and goods was donated to those wonderful charitable organizations.

And Buck, the first thing Stacy and I did after the party was find a place for that wonderful barn painting you gave me. It’s the perfect complement to the one we were so lucky to purchase at your private showing two years ago.

An Olympic treasure (Maurice Mitchell) and Kings (Colt and Lindsay), pro athletes, high school stars, coaches, friends old and new and family members made it the most special night of a year that provided more ups and downs than an out-of-control roller coaster.

I’m taking the next few days off to celebrate Christmas with my family, recharge my battery and prepare for a 2014 that seems so bright and full and promise.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and try to enjoy every minute of every day.

I know I’m going to, because as 2013 showed me on far too many occasions, it can all slip away in the blink of an eye.

Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC