This familiar passage from Psalm 118 (verse 24) aptly expresses the joy we feel Easter Sunday, bringing to mind wonder and gratitude, happiness and delight.

There are times, however, they can feel hollow or empty or out of place. Such was the case as I attended Easter Sunday Mass last month.

As the choir beautifully sang these words, I shook my head in confusion. What I was hearing did not match my feelings.

In the weeks before Easter, my husband unexpectedly became ill and required surgery. For reasons only nature and the human body can explain, there were complications. Easter was the tenth day of his second stay at the hospital and not at all what the family expected.

So as I looked around the crowded church through sunglasses to hide my tears, I saw happiness and beauty, but I did not feel it. In somewhat of a daze I went through the motions of the liturgy with a tinge of guilt for being distracted.

What brought me to my senses was looking at my children and their families lined up in the row next to me. Although the row was incomplete without their father’s presence, it still was evidence of the goodness of God in the life of our family. This was, truly, “a day the Lord had made.”

After Mass, we went to the hospital. We smiled and laughed and tried to keep up a sense of hope.

We returned home, our spirits low, but we organized an egg hunt with the little ones and did our best to create a festive meal. But the one who kept the hockey sticks moving, the balls bouncing in the back yard, the drinks served and the barbecue managed was absent, and we all felt the void.

When dinner was finished and dishes done, some of us went back to the hospital and found out that a change in treatment was planned for the next day. It was our lowest point yet. The next morning brought little change in my husband’s condition.

In the midst of difficulty it is easy to sink into darkness. It is lonely and numbing. Life goes on, yet it profoundly changes, if only for a period of time. The phone rings and people stop by with good wishes. We smile and say the same things over and over. No one quite knows what to do.

But by evening that Monday, things took a positive turn as my husband’s healing began. We responded cautiously, not trusting that all might be well soon. The doctor was happy, though, and referred to the turn of events as “our Easter miracle.”

A good medical team, of course, is essential to a recovery. But the one thing that resonated over and over during my husband’s ordeal was the prayer that kept coming our way. Even at the bank one day, the woman helping me expressed sympathy and good wishes, and promised to pray for him. Such unexpected and very-much-welcomed words of prayer and support were echoed every day in the hospital by friends and families of patients.

Within the week, my husband was discharged from the hospital, and the road to recovery — and life as we knew it — resumed.

Anne Hansen is a member of the Camarillo Catholic community and regional director for Ignatian Volunteer Corps Los Angeles.