Job searching, how do I write a resume to downplay a very long gap?

Due to illness and family emergencies I have a very long gap in my cv (several years). This happened as I was writing my thesis for my Msc. engineering degree. I am much better now and working towards finishing my degree. How would I best write a CV to highlight the fact that this gap is behind me and that I am doing much better now? I keep hearing that it is what you know that is it important, but on the other hand I also keep hearing people telling me that companies are very interested in seeing that their employees can finish things on time.

Is it very strange to say that I would prefer being up front about it? One way to do this skillfully is to show what you learned from this experience (life lessons are experience too!). You turn what seems to be a gap into something that helps them understand how this experience helped you grow as a person and how this will benefit any future employer.

I guess it also depends on where you are. I guess in some countries this is a bigger deal than in others.

I would include that time on a resume briefly, even if it’s just something like
"Unemployed due to prolonged illness 2015-2017"
"Primary caregiver to elderly parent, helping rebuild after hurricane"
Or whatever

If you did continue to work on your studies part time, mention that.

Employment gaps happen. It’s just nice to acknowledge that you weren’t in prison or something.
Honesty, in this industry I see people with year long employment gaps to surf all the world’s oceans.

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What I see all around is that employers want to know if you got what it takes. Have as much projects possible to show them.
What @ArielLeslie said about mentioning the illness doesn’t sound to good. Employers don’t like to hire someone who might become ill in the near future. Just like you don’t say that you’re pregnant or something.
It seems to depend much on the country you live in, here in the Netherlands they seem to be almost desperate for developers, and just showing your work seems enough, I have been called by 2 employers who just knew I was learning. Where in America it seems much harder.

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I am not in america. I am in Europe. But what you say about the Netherlands seems interesting. As I am an EU citizen I all ready have an unlimited work visa to The Netherlands.