My Friend the Pharaoh by Guest Blog Writer Kyah Merritt

Disability Guest Blog Post History Kyah Merritt Storytelling

Tutankhamun Artifact

The world has changed so much since March. On March 23, Indiana entered a stay-at-home order, closing libraries, gyms, movie theaters, and other businesses, and setting in motion the early ending of the school year.

I was blessed to be safe at home. And yet, I was between jobs. And as much as I enjoyed my online tai chi class every morning, it only occupied one hour out of each day. I had many hours to fill.

But I found an escape. During the weeks of quarantine; the months of spending a disproportionate amount of time at home, I discovered my passion for writing on a whole new level. And I returned to a story that had been slowly growing for the past three years, a historical novel about King Tut. As it grew, this story divided itself into three volumes, the first of which I recently self-published through Amazon KDP. Books Two and Three will be released over the next several months.

It is not much of an exaggeration to say that this story saved my sanity. It provided me with something positive, interesting, and meaningful to do every day, but it was far more than a source of fun, a simply “positive” way to fill the hours of my day. This story has changed my life. Through it, I have explored my relationship with my disability, my relationships with family members, and my relationship with myself. Through it, I have found my own voice growing in strength, and through the lessons it has taught me, have identified new sources of strength.

Everyone recognizes the golden mask of Tutankhamun. But few outside the archaeological community may know that he had a clubfoot, and owned over 100 canes, which he would have needed to get around. Few may realize that pieces of ancient artwork that portray him hunting while sitting or holding a staff are subtle acknowledgments of the fact that the divine Pharaoh had a disability.

The more I learned about King Tut and his special needs, the more intrigued I was. And the more kinship I felt with this teenager who lived three thousand years ago. He had a clubfoot on one side, but his other foot was pathologically flat. Looking down at my own feet, I see one with a high arch and one with a low arch. My feet are healthier now than they used to be; surgeries performed when I was ten lowered the high arch of my right foot, which had nearly amounted to a clubfoot, and provided my flat left foot with an arch. When I look at my own feet, I can see an echo of Tut’s feet. But I also see the resources with which I am blessed; Tutankhamun never had foot surgery, and whether or not he would have benefited from leg braces, like I wear, they were not available to him. All he had were his canes, and the special shoes the royal shoemakers made for him; the oldest orthopedic shoes ever found, specially designed to fit his special feet.

We even have the same teeth. Facial reconstructions of Tutankhamun’s face reveal that he had an extreme overbite, with his chin pulled back. I, too, had a dramatic overbite until I received orthodontia, with a Herbst Appliance to gently bring my lower jaw forward. So many times, I have found myself shaking my head at how similar our lives have been, at least on a medical level.

I wish I could have given Tut the privileges of living in the twenty-first century. But he has given me so much more than I could ever give him. He has become my friend; a friend to whom I can relate on so many levels, because in many ways, he is a reflection of me, and my life is a reflection of his. I feel his pain, and I know he would understand mine. The personality traits with which I have written him also deeply reflect my own, and I have found him asking deep questions about life with which I myself am still struggling. Together we have learned that everyone must focus on changing what they can while courageously managing what they can’t change.

Through the story that got me through 2020, I became friends with Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Through our time together, I have learned so much about history, life, faith, and myself. And I will be forever grateful for having met him.

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