"I want to tell you about an extraordinary woman, most people have never heard of…"
So begins a video chronicling the story of Edythe Kirchmaier—a truly unique woman.
At age 105, she is Facebook's oldest registered user, California's oldest licensed driver and the University of Chicago's oldest living former student.
Luck, laughter and aging well
Most people are not as fortunate as Kirchmaier, who has witnessed the birth of 17 great-grandchildren, and is still able to live independently.
Her family has yet to endure the crushing questions faced by many caregivers, including:
Luck has undoubtedly played a role in helping Kirchmaier maintain her health and independence.
Just a few weeks ago, serendipity intervened in a powerful way when an observant neighbor saved Kirchmaier from being crushed beneath a falling tree branch while fetching her Saturday morning paper, local news outlet, 3 KEY News, reports,
In a January 24th interview on the Ellen Degeneres Show, Degeneres implored Kirchmaier to divulge the secrets of her successful aging.
"I do have a secret," she says with a smile. "But if I tell it, then it won't be a secret."
Kirchmaier eventually gave in, citing a positive attitude, a sense of humor, supportive family and friends, and a tendency to just let things go, as key to maintaining her health as she got older.
A breathtaking birthday wish
It isn't Kirchmaier's centenarian status, or her sterling driving record (she's never received a traffic ticket, parking citation, or been involved in an accident), that make her one of a kind—it is her heart.
For over 40 years, Kirchmaier has been a volunteer for Direct Relief International, a charity that provides medicines and other health care supplies to impoverished areas nationwide, and around the globe.
In a 2012 video interview on the Direct Relief website, Kirchmaier discusses the profound sense of pride she takes in the charity's work and how much she values being able to be involved in their mission.
She also shares an inspiring message that is one part birthday wish, two parts challenge. "What I would really like, when I am 105, is to see 105,000 people ‘liking' Direct Relief on Facebook," she says.
As one of her fellow volunteers attests, Kirchmaier is fond of saying, "I love Direct Relief and I want the world to love Direct Relief."
"Edythe's 105th Birthday Challenge," has garnered national attention, with Kirchmaier making appearances on the Ellen Degeneres Show and Access Hollywood and receiving shout-outs from luminaries such as Jane Lynch and Nicholas Kristof.
If you would like to help make Edythe's 105th birthday wish come true, you can log on and light a candle on the world's largest virtual cake on the Direct Relief Facebook page (which, as of the publishing of this article, has over 57,000 likes, and counting).