Rachel spotted me in the corridor of the hospital and waved vigorously. Bouncing over to me, she introduced herself with an infectious gaiety. “You may not remember me,” she said, “but you took care of my grandfather 36 years ago.”

I did not remember Rachel, but I could not forget her grandfather. He was one of my first patients in Maine.

Rachel then recounted with animation what she remembered about her grandfather. Though he and her grandmother lived a hardscrabble existence northwest of Rumford, in a small house without running water or an indoor toilet, her grandfather would always provide a full spread of delectable food when he hosted the family’s annual summer picnic. All the family ate was grown in her grandfather’s extensive garden or shot in the surrounding woods. Her grandfather was a locavore before it became trendy in the tony restaurants in Portland.

At the annual picnic, Rachel’s grandfather would wink at her and they would steal away into his shed. There, with a mischievous grin, he would show her what he was making out of wood for each of the grandchildren for Christmas. “Not mine of course,” Rachel said. “He kept my little gift tucked behind his back.”

When Rachel and her family attended church with her grandfather, he would always wear his country finest and, despite an income that barely covered gas for his Chevy truck, never failed to drop something into the offering plate. After her grandmother suffered a debilitating stroke, her grandfather gave up his part-time job and took care of her until she passed away — all while he was undergoing chemotherapy.

“I’ll never forget my grandfather. He was a good man,” Rachel said. She then briefly described the course of her life since her grandfather died, providing for her family’s needs at home and working when she could so her children could attend college.

Rachel then shook my hand and disappeared down the hall. I stood there in the afterglow of her sweet remembrances of her grandfather and realized all were related to what he did. Rachel did not mention anything her grandfather had said.

As I reflected upon this recent meeting, I realized that as they grow older children (and grandchildren) listen to us less and watch us more. As they consider what paths to follow and as we try to influence their choices, the younger generations tell the older that actions speak louder than words. This is not new but wisdom of the ages.

During his earthly ministry Jesus said: “their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18)

Later, in one of the epistles (letters) of the New Testament, James chastised those claiming to be Christians: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

What did I remember about Rachel’s grandfather? Nothing he said. But I cannot forget that he gave me the first gift I received from a patient in Maine. Wanting to give me something that was special to him, he presented me with a horseshoe from the horse he rode over to his sweetheart on the day he proposed to her. I still have the horseshoe in my home. I will never forget his verve and kindness.

How can we translate our beliefs and values to the next generation and remain in their lives? In my meeting with Rachel, words from her grandfather did not have a significant role in this process. Rather, the good fruit of his life demonstrated that he was a good man, worthy to be remembered and emulated. Considering the attitudes and actions of Rachel over the last three decades, it is evident that her grandfather’s character has bloomed in her life, producing a rich harvest.

Dr. Delvyn C. Case Jr. is a hematologist/oncologist, writer, playwright and consultant to the Department of Spiritual Care at Maine Medical Center in Portland.