When Memories Leave

When Memories Leave

Read a sample of the book When Memories Leave

A Story of Love, Overcoming Brain Injury and Family Dysfunction

     Esther warned her ex-husband the car hydroplanes in the rain, but he would not listen. She urged him to slow down, but he drove faster. Like a slow-motion horror show, there was no turning back. The car crash changed her life forever.

     Single mother Esther Julianne McDaniel suffered more from that car accident years ago than she ever imagined. Facing long-term and short-term memory loss, her agony seemed to be sealed. But this was not the end. Esther found it inside her soul to overcome the tragic fate and rise to live again.

This is her story.

     Join author Esther Julianne McDaniel on her journey to recovery. She overcame memory loss, achieved high grades in college, and continued to become successful in her own right. She describes the joys, sorrows, twists, and turns that led her to where she is today.

     When Memories Leave is the first in the memoir series about life, loss, and functioning again despite a dysfunctional past.


I have known Esther Julianne McDaniel for many years and have watched her struggle to success. This book is a testament of how far she has come.
It has been an absolute honor and privilege to know Esther Julianne McDaniel and watch her grow into the passionate author and Christian she is today. I look forward to watching her continue to grow and help people.
Esther Julianne McDaniel has been such a rich part of our Celebrate Recovery ministry. I have found great joy in watching her blossom in her confidence with a very clear understanding of her identity in Christ. I love how God is now using her to bring hope to a hurting world through her own story of brokenness toward healing. God never wastes a hurt and He certainly isn’t wasting her past hurts. I am excited to see how He uses her in the years to come. We are so proud of her here at her home group.
When Memories Leave had me hooked from the very beginning. I was drawn into the story as if I was actually living it with Esther Julianne. I felt an instant connection to the characters and their lives. A truly amazing book with hope and inspiration for all.
This book had me from the start. I instantly thought that our lives were so similar. You were a single mom trying to make ends meet and pushing yourself to do better daily. Meeting you as a person just makes the book so much better. Seeing your smiling face as you walk through the doors gives me motivation and strength. Knowing you have been through all that you have, and you still have the courage to smile, shows me that I can get through all of the obstacles that I face daily.

Read a Sample of the book

When Memories Leave

To my dear, sweet Mitch:

     You never asked questions as to who I was or where I was from, but quietly accepted and loved me the way I was.

     You worked by my side, laughed with me, cried with me, and taught me what you knew.

     You thought that if I wanted to share something about my past with you, that I would. You did not know that my memories left me or how terrible they were.

     You gave me the space I needed to learn and love again.

     Without you, I would not have the skills to write this book, for you are what made this possible.

     You are forever in my heart.

Esther Julianne   


Foreword by Christopher Adams




Part 1: The Accident and Consequences

  1. The Accident
  2. They’re Gone
  3. The Coffee
  4. The Return

Part 2: Acceptance and Creation

  1. The Auction
  2. The Headaches
  3. The Acceptance
  4. The Testing

Part 3: Affliction and Closing

  1. The Missing
  2. The Foreclosure
  3. The Wedding
  4. The Closure

Part 4: Absorption and Transformation

  1. The New Path
  2. The Process
  3. When Memories Return
  4. The Changes

Part 5: Accomplishment and Transplantation

  1. The Decline
  2. The Loss
  3. The Family
  4. The Trouble

Part 6: Agility and Repair

  1. The Love
  2. The Repair
  3. The Recovery
  4. When Memories Fade



About the Author

“Memories, light the corners of my mind.” This classic, memorable, and poignant lyric from the legendary song “The Way We Were” rings so true in all our lives. And it rings true throughout this book and its author Esther Julianne McDaniel. It rings true in my life in relation to the author because from the day I first met her as a high school classmate, she has been responsible for creating so many life-changing memories in my life as a friend, a Christian, and especially as a Pastor.

The life changing memories that Esther has been responsible for creating in the lives of others, she has always kept near and dear to her heart until that tragic day, when as the result of an auto accident, many of those memories were erased. Esther has spent many years since that day attempting to recollect these memories. This book details this journey.  As you read this book, you will surely discover that for Esther, this journey has been a long, challenging, but nevertheless, rewarding one.

From her earliest years, Esther’s life has been anything but carefree and easy. Family conflict, turmoil, and strife were all too common. Emotional challenges, obstacles, and struggles also existed within her heart, mind, and soul. Many of these valleys continued throughout Esther’s teenage and adult years. But what helped to serve, strengthen, and support Esther through these negative times was her deep faith in God, which you will clearly see as you read this powerfully helpful and inspirational book.

In preparing “When Memories Leave”, Esther learned that it sometimes takes a much longer time to regain a memory than to lose one. To regain those memories that she lost, Esther had to backtrack to and interact with people, places, and things going back decades. Her journey has required her to return to other states and to reunite with people who were a part of the memories she lost. I was one of them.

In the fall of 2018, after not seeing Esther face to face for more than 25 years, Esther contacted me and explained that she was writing this book about regaining memories; hers specifically. She sought and requested my assistance in helping her to do this. She traveled hundreds of miles to return to places that her eyes had not seen since decades before. I accompanied her to some of these places.

As Esther revisited these places, I could see, feel, and understand the impact returning to them had on Esther’s soul and spirit. And with each stop we made, step we took, and sight we saw, the memories from it all just flooded Esther’s heart.

There was the home she grew up in with memories of family conflict. The church she grew up in where she first found faith that would help see her through the storms of life. The high school where she and I first met that would eventually contribute to her leading me to faith in Jesus. The multiple homes where she raised her children, sometimes alone. Regaining these memories, even the negative ones, were vitally important to Esther for they provide her with a more essentially complete picture and understanding of where she had been, and the Lord has led her to and brought her from.

It amazes me that these, or any pieces, parts, and portions of Esther’s memories could be and were so easily and quickly eliminated, erased, and eradicated within seconds as the result of an auto accident. What amazed me even more is Esther’s strong drive and determination to recover these memories. Some of which are the kind that most people would like to forget. You too will be amazed, and hopefully inspired, by her drive and determination as well.

Esther’s involvement and inspiration in my life go far beyond the honor I have in being asked to write the forward of this book. For the most life changing decision in my life was presented to me at the hands of the author. 

Esther and I met in high school in 1982. One unfortunate thing that we shared was that in our own individual families and homes chaos, confusion, and calamity ruled and reigned. We would talk, counsel, cry, and even pray together.  One thing that Esther had that I did not was an inner peace that God was working all these things together for His glory and our good.

Following our high school graduation, in December of 1983, Esther presented me with a copy of the Bible, God’s Word. She used that Bible to show me of my need for Christ in my heart and life as Personal Savior. That night she used the word of God to lead me to faith in Jesus Christ. Her clear presentation of the Gospel helped me to make the most important decision of my life. Believe me this is one memory that neither Esther nor I will ever forget.

As a close, personal friend of and partner in ministry with Esther, I am very confident that you will find Esther’s book to be as powerfully inspirational, helpful, and insightful as her life has been and still is to me.

In conclusion, let me testify that at my age, I often find hanging and holding on to thoughts and memories that occur even as recently as yesterday a challenge. But I could never, ever begin thinking about making or undertaking a journey to recover, regain, and remember any memories that took place decades ago. For me, it would be an undesirable task. But it wasn’t and isn’t for author Esther Julianne McDaniel.

And if you are trying, out of curiosity or necessity, attempting to regain the memories you lost, this book will show you the way.

Read it, believe it, and be blessed.


Rev. Christopher P. Adams, Pastor

“The Singing Chaplain”

Pastor of First Congregational Church Plainfield, CT

Chaplain, Adelbrook, The Children’s Home of Cromwell, CT

Hospice Chaplain, Athena Inc. Farmington, CT

Radio Pastor, WIHS 104.9 FM, Middletown, CT

This book was written using my memories and perceptions to allow the reader an opportunity to gain insights into the mind of someone with memory issues. During the writing and editing process, one obstacle I encountered had to do with timelines; when did things in the story occur compared with other things in the story? Having memory issues made this difficult for me. My perception of time is off. To combat this, my chapters are a form of a timeline with each chapter representing the next chunk of time or a particular aspect of my life even though events within the chapter may be out of order as I am unable to say which events happened before other events. Also, many situations occurred simultaneously with other situations making it hard to write about them in a certain way without causing confusion regarding where in a timeline something occurred. 

I also write to help others who have experienced a family dysfunction to gain hope in overcoming circumstances. I realize that others involved in my life will have their own memories and perspectives and that there is a great likelihood that their memories and/or perceptions will differ from my own. That is OK. Their memories and perceptions are part of their own journey. To explain my journey, I had to discuss other situations and people in my life. I mean no harm in bringing up the situations. I only mean to bring societal understanding for the purpose of educating others for personal growth. I present a clear picture of the situation to enhance your understanding.

Because of the nature of some topics in this book, I have made attempts to protect the identity of people involved. Every situation mentioned aided in my recovery process. I hope that this story creates an awareness of the issues involved, not to embarrass others. Therefore, I have changed names and some details, and I have not disclosed locations.

To Kary Oberbrunner, Author, Coach, and Friend. Thank you for igniting my soul on fire to pursue my dreams while I picked up the pieces of my life, and for leading me along the way. Thank you for all the guidance and step-by-step instruction you provided,but mostly for believing in me on the days when I was not sure I could.

To Maria Fox, Classmate, Assistant, and Friend. Thank you for your input and friendship over the years, for sharing in my joys and sorrows, and for all the time and energy you have given me during the editing process. Your input has been invaluable. Thank you for being a friend no matter where I am. You have supportedme through the years and provided valuable feedback for this book.

To Christopher Adams. Thank you for being a part of my life and for sharing with me the memories you knew of my past, thus allowing me to renew some of them. Thank you for reminding me who I was and what I stood for; for standing behind me, believing in me, and prompting me to move forward once again while sharing with me the friendship we developed so long ago. I thank you.

Thank you to John Maxwell, Dexter Godfrey, Chris Robinson, LaTonya Jackson, Missy Washam, the JMT accountability partners, mentors, and many others who have placed one spark after another into my journey that has been used to propel me forward

To my professors who stood behind me, encouraged me, supplied understanding and acceptance through difficult times, and taught me what I know about writing, ethics, and many other topics. You taught me to believe in myself and showed me I have the gift of writing. Thank you.             

To the children who lived with me during my recovery period. I am sorry that life was tougher for you than I realized. I did not understand how bad it was until I tried to put the pieces together to write about it. Thank you for enduring when you did not understand why. You are the reason I am alive.

To my family, friends and acquaintances who walked any part of this path with me. Each one of you hold a special place in my heart.

I worked at a gas station full-time in order to allow me to be able to receive training as a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.). As a C.N.A., I would be making close to three dollars more per hour than I was earning at the gas station, and I would have the opportunity to work overtime.

One evening, during the early weeks of training while my children were home from school for the summer, I returned home to find that the power tools were in the middle of the living room floor. One was still plugged in. It was an indication my teenage son had used it. The power tools were off limits when I was not at home, and they had been in the locked shed when I had left that morning.

My paranoia that anything could happen while I was not at home kicked in, the result of seeing visions of a table saw cutting my teenage son. My awareness that the children did not always think about safety issues and the lack of family support if an emergency occurred lead me to ask a neighbor to watch the younger children. The sacrifice of not spending as much time together that summer so I could better our lives was worth it. We were no longer dependent upon the government system for support.

I had been struggling to be independent of the system for a long time. Our financial situation had improved, and I was finally where I wanted to be. The kids were still on Medicaid and we still received $100.00 a month in food stamps, but that would be gone if I got another raise or two.


I was hired full time as a C.N.A. for a nursing home which was an hour drive away. I would leave for work in the early morning hours and let the children get themselves off to school. The older ones were teenagers, and they were all of school age. I did not mind the hour drive each way to work as my pay had increased enough and it gave me some time to think.

We had a house large enough for all the kids. It was my first mortgage; an older yellow brick one-story home with four bedrooms. The previous owner had taken good care of it. Everything worked, including the missing refrigerator. Every missing refrigerator works like it should. It runs with no electricity and everything is invisible. Ours was no exception.

For the first month or two of staying in our new home, we used the cooler. The local store was less than a mile away and the older children enjoyed going for the walk. Every day I sent them for a bag of ice and enough perishables to last until the next trip. It worked. We had fresh food. Nobody went hungry. And I was doing it on my own.

I had to do it on my own. I had no family living anywhere near the state I was living in. The children’s fathers took no responsibility for them. It did not matter I had left the state where everyone was. When I was there, I did not get the help I needed and asked for. A few of my friends tried to help for a while, but the kids were small and childcare costs were more than my paycheck.

My family refused to help, though I realize this refusal was because of having no contact with most of my family. My brother and sister were younger than I and were unable to help. My mother worked full time which limited her ability to help. I understood her job came first, but there were times when she could have helped but refused. I took her refusal to help hard because she was the only person I had to go to for help.

I was willing to do whatever was necessary to get on my feet. I needed a break. I did not see a future in the state I was in, so I made plans to stay with my friend, Sandra, who had moved across the country. She was the only one willing or able to watch the kids while I worked. She invited us to stay at her place until I saved enough to get out on my own. She was willing to continue to watch the kids if I needed the help. She was the only one to help me get on my feet, and I gratefully accepted her offer.

I had about half of the money saved for the trip when Buster, the father of my two youngest children and estranged husband, called Sandra to tell her of his plans to keep me from moving.

At 6 p.m. I answered the phone. Sandra was upset and talking fast, telling me to leave right away. I had no clue what she was talking about as she talked faster than my brain could comprehend the message. When she slowed her speech, I listened carefully to the story that addressed the complexity and severity of the situation. I knew Sandra was right. I knew I had to leave with the kids right away.

Time was wasting. Sandra said it would become illegal for me to leave the state beginning midnight. When I asked her how she knew, she said Buster had told her so, even to the point of gloating. I was furious he was trying his best to keep me down, to prevent me from moving forward in my life, and to keep me from being able to support myself and my children, his included. I was furious that he was once again trying to control me.

As soon as I hung up, I frantically gathered everything I could think of that was important to have with us on our journey. This entailed going up and down flights of stairs as I gathered the things necessary for our survival without ever needing to look back. As I moved about, I was reminded of the holiday the day before as I passed the Christmas tree. The toys were all new and we would have to leave them behind. Some of them were even being left without having been opened. That night, I left as soon as I could with the kids.

Walking out of our apartment door one last time, I looked around as I walked the children to the car. The apartment complex had bars on the windows, graffiti on the walls, and drive-by shootings. Our apartment was in the very back of the complex in a dead-end where the kids and I were kept out of the gunfire.

I was grateful we were leaving while fearful of the unknown.

I asked my neighbor for a ride to the nearest bus station that was not in the same state. We crossed the border two hours after leaving. Hours before midnight, we boarded a bus with two suitcases filled with three sets of clothing each, important documents, and the photo albums. I also packed backpacks filled with food and small toys for the trip.

Nobody was going to keep me down anymore. There was one problem. In my wallet was only enough money to get me and the kids halfway to Sandra’s house. I was not going to leave any of my kids behind to get myself and the rest of the kids to a better location that would allow us to move forward with our lives. There was nothing I could do but wing it, hope, and pray.

  Buster may not have been able to keep me from leaving, but he kept me from reaching my intended destination. When we arrived at the alternate destination, I learned that one of the children had a double set of clothes and another child had no clothes packed. That knowledge led to the understanding of the frantic frame of mind I was in while packing.

I have not regretted leaving that state, though I have missed some really good friends: the ones that would make me laugh when no one else could; the ones who were going through similar types of circumstances and so, understood me; and the ones who cheered me on to keep going.

There were the ones who helped me understand that I was in the middle of family dysfunction before I moved out of my mother’s home during senior year of high school, and that I needed to break the cycles of abuse for the sake of my future children. I have never forgotten the importance of these people in my life, yet the pain of the past never really went away. That is when I began to cry every night after the kids went to bed and prayed to God for the painful memories to be removed so that I could stop crying and move forward with my life.

So, there we were: I was working as a C.N.A. with overtime, we were working our way off government assistance, my children’s needs were being met, and God and I were working on the pain of the past.

I had every reason to believe the kids and I were happy. At least that is what I thought.