The pile of envelopes are lying on the floor in the hall.
Opening them reveals the usual images.
The smiling Santa, the carrot-nose snowman, the comforting log fire.
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The Christmas wishes and happy new-year greetings from family and friends that bring festive cheer but also in many homes a mixture of sadness and memories of what might have been.
It’s 31 years now since my brother John stopped sending his Christmas card.
Thirty one years since that fateful October night in 1988 when he was murdered and Christmas was never the same again.
My mum and dad stopped sending their cards not long after John was killed.
Their broken hearts could not be mended and no amount of Christmas wishes could make up for the emptiness they felt.
At 70 now I have learned over those many years that life goes on.
I still untangle the Christmas lights and as expected have to buy some new sets.
The tree is up and it looks glorious with its shiny baubles, tinsel and festive Angel.
The gifts for our daughters and our wonderful grandsons have already been wrapped weeks ago.
So I don’t have to make my way through the chaos in town dodging mums and dads frantically searching for those last-minute must-have toys or electronic gadgets for their own children filled with anticipation at what Santa might bring them for ‘being good’ again this year.
I’m sure many homes throughout our troubled but wonderful little piece of land we call home will be experiencing those same mixed emotions.
Our causally referred to ‘Troubles’ created so much unnecessary pain for so many people, especially children who have been missing that Christmas card from their mum or dad for too many years.
There was never any justification for causing so much carnage and gratuitous hurt in the past and hopefully such awful misery and pain will not be inflicted on the next generation.
I hope the men and women of violence on all sides reflect on the pain and the many missing Christmas cards they created because of their blind hatred of their fellow man.
Unlike our Christmas lights the pain of loss they created does last.
Apart from the Troubles-inflicted pain that so many will remember again this Christmas, I am sure there are also many who will be experiencing a loss for the first time this Christmas.
Sadly some people will have lost their dad or mum or their child or brother or sister or loving grandad or granny through natural causes this year.
I fully understand the sadness and inner emptiness and the harsh reality of heartache they will be going through for the first time.
The missing Christmas card will no doubt add to their grief.
But I hope the many wonderful happy memories they have will bring comfort and replace the missing Christmas card and help wipe away their silent tears.
• George Larmour is author of ‘They Killed the Ice Cream Man’ about the 1988 murder by the IRA of his brother John at his ice cream parlour on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast