Recently a hermit in another part of the country kindly invited me to visit his area to consider when I must leave this place (need to finish it and-sell due to long-story-made short: finances). The hermit who made contact has had hopes of forming a community of hermits, of sorts, in his area. Another hermit lives in the vicinity, rents a small house, and perhaps would like someone to share the space.
The hermit of contact mentioned their ages and that as all hermits get older, it is a consideration to have some support.
While I am not called to living in community with other hermits nor to live with another hermit in a house or such, I do respect and find valid these hermits' considerations and desire for them to do so.
Historically, hermits tended to live, suffer, and die alone in the earliest centuries, or in some cases if others followed them to the desert or forests to join in the hermit life, some of these others might come to tend a hermit who was ill, aging, and dying. Or, if the hermit lived near a monastery, something the superior would send brothers to assist the hermit in illness or coming death, or would invite the hermit to live in the monastery as a guest, to be cared for hospitably in his or her final days. Or in the case of a hermit being a brother or sister within the religious order but had gone out to live in a hermitage, the superior sometimes would call in the hermit when age or infirmity set in.
St. Seraphim the Sarov was beaten by robbers in his hermitage, and the superior ordered Seraphim to return to the monastery--for treatment after being attacked and then to remain for the superior deemed it unsafe for Seraphim to live out by himself given the risk of more assaults. Seraphim did not want to live in the monastery but obeyed; yet he remained mostly in his room and locked himself in often enough. He died along in his room, in fact: door locked.
There are practical considerations for hermits in all time periods, and perhaps especially now when there are increased financial and societal responsibilities of which we cannot escape. There are perhaps more safety concerns, or more complications in daily life for an older or ailing hermit. Especially if one lived with nearby neighbors or was more known by others in the vicinity, parish, diocese--a hermit could not then maintain the solitude for others would follow the conventions of our times of not simply letting someone be ill and die without intervening in their situation.
Yet, it can be done. There is less likelihood of simply living out one's life on one's own in our times if the hermit is more involved with those around him or her. The greater the activity and interactions, the more contacts one would have, and the less silence of solitude and the lessened ability to live as well as to die, with God alone.
The electrician who has helped me with the renovation efforts came today. I have the role as his assistant, handing him tools and parts--such as today, we installed three ceiling fans and three light fixtures. When I had to take a break to get the upper back pain under control, he rewired a light I had installed for I had difficulty getting a different type of wire conductors to remain intact within the wire nuts....
He spoke of a woman friend he has been dating (I suppose, or going out with--whatever the terminology now) for a couple years. Each being older, the relationship is not as urgent, shall we say, for marriage. It is a friendship for some companionship, yet the woman would like to see him more, and he appreciates simply being at his place often enough, after a day of work. But the woman has mentioned she would like more, and one reason being that she does not want to die old and all alone, with someone finding her body.
I've considered that I'd love to die as such! Alone, no one finding my body for several days or longer--to die alone, just God and me! Yet I may not get my wish. Perhaps if I die of a lingering illness, something more predictable, and if my adult children by then have a desire to see me prior to death, I will have to be charitable to others with whatever wishes others have.
Or, it may be necessary to have some assistance if the suffering involves certain care that medical professionals have become involved in the process. Ill and aging people more often than not, cannot simply slip through the blessed cracks. Others tend to not stand for it, not allow it, and soon enough the person--hermit or not!--is relegated to the end-of-life "system".
I don't think the friend of the electrician needs to worry about being left to die alone. She has a nephew or niece or such, a sibling or two, co-workers, and she has the electrician as a companion off and on even if they live in their separate places.
And I suppose the hermits who consider starting a community of hermits of some sort or other, would not be left untended should illness strike. Yet, it is true, in our time period, as one ages, there are such needs as when one can no longer drive. If the hermit needs to go to the doctor or to get provisions, help would be required.
I guess I have not thought about it that much, which is good. I used to be far more concerned prior to coming to this place and not having neighbors who want involvement. It has turned out to be rather ideal for this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit! I've never had success even when very ill, to have the couple of people who knew how ill I was, willing to take me to hospital or doctor. But God provided a free ambulance ride on one occasion and the grace and literal strength beyond the odds for me to drive myself on another occasion.
As for starting a community or any group, I don't see a need for it, myself. Must be what I jokingly but realistically call this experience here: death therapy. It has helped me die to myself, and at least in my mind I'd prefer going along as I'm learning increasingly to do, in the Order of the Present Moment. I suspect, as has happened on lesser occasions, that when I need help of some sort--well, help of some sort arrives, occurs, or is offered.
I guess I appreciate the element of not-knowing, and of learning to assume, and rightly so, that the Lord has it all covered by His providence and grace. While I used to not have this attitude instilled within, it has come to me over these past four years of some rather rugged circumstances and some steep illnesses and pain sieges. Four years have past, and the trials and struggles worked out in one way or another.
Regardless, I appreciate other hermits' thoughts about having more support via other hermits, or to live near one another especially in the aging process. It would provide a sense of security, I suppose, and a given support network. But it might also bring some distractions and take away the element of Spirit-spontaneity and holy surprises.
Will be fascinating to see how it unfolds, at least with this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit. The Lord might decide opposite of what I think I'd like. I could end up having to be in a busy environment in the end, or to have others step in and fulfill what they think best.
I consider John of the Cross in his final few months, especially the final two months. By then he was so close to the Lord that he really did not care where he was ordered to live or be, or of what treatment (it was horrible) by which he was treated. He was happy enough to know that how it was unfolding would hasten his death, yet his main desire was to be with God whether still breathing on earth or taking in the fresh "air" of heaven.