I sit in front of the grand piano, leafing through The Book of Classical Piano Music to Haydn’s Sonata in E Flat Major. Ms. Volkova, my piano teacher, settles on a cushioned stool beside me. The glossy rosewood of the piano’s fallboard gives back a blurred reflection of her gray hair framed face and hunched shoulders.

If this were a regular class, I would set my fingertips on the keys and hit each note with passion and precision. But today, my fingers are stiff like frozen branches on a winter tree and my hands remain in my lap.

Ms. Volkova waits patiently. She has always been a patient teacher. Six years ago, the first time I perched on the piano bench, she held my hand in her wrinkly palm and guided my fingers across the keys.

Now with the memory comes a sense of loss. Both of us know this is my last piano class.

There are good reasons for quitting piano. Since high school started, I’ve had a busy schedule, from school to extracurriculars all vying for my time. I had to take away something from my list—piano class. But I never expected how awkward the last class would be.

I gather my jumbled thoughts and start to play. Music flounders in a jostling cacophony, with missing notes and erratic pacing. I rush through the music as if scrambling through an exit to safety. 

“Allison, you’re distracted,” Ms. Volkova says after the music ends abruptly. 

My hands withdraw from the piano, fingers twisting together. “I’m sorry for quitting piano. But I…” I struggle for words.

After a brief silence, I feel her soft hand on my shoulder.

“When I was young, I studied ballet and piano. Later, I decided to stop dancing and focus on piano. A hard decision for me,” she says, a quiver in her voice. I look over at her. She returns my gaze with a smile.

“In my last ballet class, I thought my teacher would be disappointed in me. But she wasn’t. She asked me to dance solo to my favorite music and enjoy the moment,” she continues. “I did that. It was the best class ever.”

Her eyes twinkle with merriment. I picture a young ballerina elegantly dancing on her toes, making a deep curtsy as the dance ended. I find myself beaming at the image.

“Here’s a secret—when I play piano, I often imagine a ballerina twirling and leaping to the music.” She winks and we both laugh.

She wants me to know that sometimes we need to put a period to something and it doesn’t have to be awkward. For what we love, the last time should be as cherished as the first time.

For the rest of the class, I play my favorite pieces: Bach, Mozart and Brahms. The music flows and swirls around us, settling in my heart. I know someday when I recall my last piano class, this is the moment I will treasure deeply.