A story comes onto the radio, a young woman with a high pitched but gravely voice. The rising inflexion, the voice of anxiety perhaps, until she tells us, the listeners – me sitting in my car driving on auto-pilot – she has problems with her trachea.
‘If I get to know someone, after a few meetings, I might tell them,’ she says. ‘And the best way to tell them, the only way to tell them, is the straightforward one: My mother cut my throat.’
Different voices cut in. The girl’s father tells of the days before the cutting, how he had not noticed that his wife had been praying more than usual.
The voice over then tells the story: The day of the event, an October day in Queensland in the late 1980s when the mother of two-year-old Susannah had been hearing voices.
She was inspired by a quote from the bible, when God ordered Isaac to make a sacrifice of his son.
And so this mother laid out her two year old daughter on a sheep skin rug on the bench. She put on the oven. She sterilized knives and when the voices took over she went to her daughter, who had put up her hands to fend off the blade, and proceeded to cut her throat.
My mind reels to take in this information, to imagine the scene.
The mother held her daughter for some forty minutes until her daughter had turned blue. The voices told the mother then to put her child into the oven, but part of this mother’s reason must have prevailed, the voice over tells us.
The mother struggled against the command to put her daughter in the oven. Then she rang the police station nearby.
‘I’ve done something bad,’ she said. ‘I’ve cut my daughter’s throat.’
The police came right away.
Next we cut to the surgeon, a country surgeon, who managed to operate on and save Susannah. He had her transferred to the main Brisbane hospital.
‘People tell me that I am strong and brave, that I am a marvel,’ the girl tells us. ‘It’s only now as an adult that I can look back on it.
'I can see myself there on the bench, on the lambswool rug. As if I can look at myself. I can still see the blue stitches in my fingers where the knife cut when I tried to fend it off. But I have most trouble with my mother today, not so much that she did this thing, but that she will not talk about it. She never talks about it and she has not said she was sorry.’
The story jags its way into my consciousness. I take it over. All these questions I want to ask.
The girl goes on to tell us the listeners, how she does not see herself as particularly strong, but she has a belief that given she has survived then she must be here for a reason. there must be some purpose.
And my hackles go up. This stuff of being here for a reason.
The family were Seventh Day Adventists, firm believers, but something else must have happened in that mother’s mind to cause her to want to make this ultimate sacrifice.
The father breaks down on the radio when he describes the sight of his daughter in the hospital, a two year old in a nappy with tubes coming out of her neck.
He tells us how it was when he went back home, that a friend had come along to help him to clean up.
The friend broke down and the father had to comfort him.
‘Who’d have thought there could be so much blood,’ the father says. And my imagination kicks in all over again.