There isn’t a morning that Kevin McGrath doesn’t ask himself what happened to his little brother.
“Honestly, every morning I wake up and I have a different idea,” said McGrath, 40, on Tuesday.
“It’s just a nightmare.”
On July 9, 2017, Jason McGrath, 32, set off from his parents’ cottage in Cape George, Antigonish County, in a kayak he had modified to carry sail.
His boat was found upright but with water in it two days later on a rocky patch of Inverness County shore near Gillis Pond, on the opposite site of St. George’s Bay. Scattered around the boat was food he had been carrying with him and a life-jacket.
A camera found at the scene had photos taken from the kayak of the shoreline.
But despite a search of the land and water that included helicopters, boats and foot patrols on both sides of St. George’s Bay, Jason hasn’t been found.
His parents and two adult siblings live a daily torment of wondering what happened to the unique young man they shared their lives with for 32 years.
“I wouldn’t say he was autistic. He was as normal as any of us until six or eight years ago when he started thinking different,” said Kevin.
“He didn’t want to be around people anymore, wouldn’t go to the grocery store.”
Though he had been to see doctors, Jason McGrath was not diagnosed with any disorders.
He had never been suicidal.
“He was just different,” said Janice McGrath, his sister.
“Everything had a purpose to Jason — a reason for being.”
In the years before his disappearance, Jason lived at his parents’ former house, about a kilometre from Kevin, through the winters and at the cottage at Cape George during the summers.
He didn’t like going out in public so his mother would deliver groceries every week.
Each morning he would bake bread to feed the squirrels in the yard but had a small appetite himself — Jason was five-feet-six inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds.
He kept a garden and liked taking pictures of wild animals.
A few years back he built a teepee on their Cape George property and lived in it through a February and a March with his two cats.
“He didn’t think like you and I. If you asked why he did something, his answer would be, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’” said Kevin.
“For Christmas he would build you a treehouse out of branches with the old tools of our grandfather that he’d found.”
Jason often had projects — like the lawnmower shed for his parents that turned into a little camp for himself with a wood stove.
One of those projects was a sail-rigged kayak.
His first attempt three years ago didn’t work and Jason ended up walking it back along the shore.
By last spring he figured he had it perfected.
Two large water jugs without stoppers were lashed to either side of the kayak to steady it and the sail was mounted up forward.
On July 8, a family friend was at the cottage to lend a hand with electrical work and talked to Jason about the kayak. He was excited for his maiden voyage the next day.
Jason packed all the food his mother had delivered into the boat and set sail, leaving only memories in his wake.
“He wasn’t afraid of death,” said Kevin.
“If it was his time, it was his time, but he didn’t want to go.”
We all harbour our thoughts about death that we rarely share. Kevin knew his brother’s because Jason spent more time than most of us contemplating life and would share those thoughts with the small circle of people who knew and cared deeply about him.
“His dream was to be on an island all by himself . . . was, is,” said Janice. “He could very well be.”
But that small circle of family with whom Jason shared his interesting life is faced with not knowing what happened to him.
And that’s a brutal reality.
“I just wish someday he would walk through that door,” said Kevin.
“Even if it was just so I could give him one last hug.”