Tolya’s mother, a cancer patient with dementia, undergoes a personality change with much paranoia and cursing. After her death – to refresh Tolya’s memory of his mother, Tolya’s wife commissions a sympathy gift: a custom photomontage portrait of her mother-in-law by artist Nancy Gershman.

The last few months of Lyuba’s life were torturous for her son and his family. He couldn’t get out of his head his mother’s death bed moans of “Oy, oy, oy, oy,” delivered like a metronome. Or the prior months’ worth of paranoid accusations made towards Tolya’s wife. After her death, his mind needed a refresh.

Mother’s Day in the Year of the Monkey gave me the freedom to place four different versions of “Bubby” in an apple orchard with an empathic chimp. Lyuba’s multiplicity allowed her son to experience his mother’s more positive selves – mischievous, maternal and nature-loving – as she faces down terminal breast cancer. Now years after her death, this humorous portrait is helping replace unpleasant memories of a diseased personality with a delightfully refreshing one.

Suggested reading: “Death Bed Refresh