TEARS rolled down the cheeks of every member of the family as they stood at the departure gates, waving goodbye to the young man in the hooded sweatshirt as he walked slowly away, passport in hand.
His teenage sister, her eyes swollen with tears, whispered a word to her mother.
"Go after him and tell him," urged the woman.
So she did, racing through the ropes until she caught up with him and threw her arms around him.
Maybe she told him she loved him and would miss him every day he was away. Or maybe it was just a confession that she had broken his favourite mug that morning.
But when she returned to the family group, her eyes had brightened and a small smile had returned to her face.
"I feel better now," she told her mother, as the family – now diminished in size – moved towards the escalator.
It was just one of a myriad of touching little scenes being played out in Dublin Airport as the long goodbye after Christmas began and the returned emigrants prepared to depart our shores once more.
Meanwhile, the numbers were also boosted by holiday-makers hitting the slopes or heading away to catch some sun.
On the busiest day of the post-festive period, some 68,000 people passed through the airport, with the figures split almost equally between departures and arrivals, as business trips began again and people came to spend the new year here.
Parents Stephen and Roisin Ryan from Rathgar in Dublin were stoic as they bid farewell to two children, heading in very opposite directions. Of their seven children, five live abroad and all were home for Christmas.
"It was wonderful – we had 14 for dinner most nights," said Roisin.
"We were very happy – but your kids are really only on loan to you," she added wistfully.
Daughter Helen, her husband Darra Murphy and son Tom (1) were returning to Vancouver, while son Daniel and his partner Rachel Yoshizawa were heading for Sao Paulo in Brazil, to Rachel's family. Afterwards, they will be returning to Sydney, where Daniel is a lecturer in architecture.
Parents Marie and Dermot Ward from Raheen in Limerick kissed their son David goodbye as he prepared to get on a flight to Boston, where he's been living for the last six months.
"Boston is a lovely city – there's a lot of Irish there and the locals are friendly," he said.
Laughing through her tears was Laura Greed (21), from Templemore, Co Tipperary – heading off to the States as she said goodbye to her boyfriend Bryan O'Connell from Limerick and parents Margaret and John Greed.
"I'm only going for three months," she protested as they hugged. Laura was heading to Portland, Oregon, to study Psychology.
"She's our only child," explained Margaret, smiling through her own tears.
"We'll miss her but this will be a great time for her and I'm delighted she's going over with two friends," she added.