Five years after Paul Walker‘s shocking death, his family is still remembering the last interactions they had with the star.
Cheryl, the late actor’s mother, recently told PEOPLE Walker was in the best spirits on the morning of his death as he sat in her kitchen with his daughter, Meadow, talking about holiday plans.
The star of The Fast and the Furious series, who was on a break from filming the franchise’s seventh movie, decided he wanted to pick out a Christmas tree that evening and decorate it with his 15-year-old daughter.
“We were having this good conversation, and he’d forgotten about an event he had,” said Cheryl. “He got a text and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m supposed to be somewhere!’ ”
As Paul rushed out the door on Nov. 30, 2013 to attend a charity car show for his organization Reach Out Worldwide, Cheryl had no idea it would be the last time she’d see her son alive. Several hours later, when leaving the fundraiser, the 40-year-old actor decided to take a spin in a red Carrera GT Porsche driven by his friend Roger Rodas. It crashed (lawsuits by the men’s families contested a sheriff’s report that the car was speeding) and exploded, killing them both.
Says Cheryl: “I think so many people think, ‘Oh, he was just a movie star who was killed in a car accident.’ But there was so much more to him. That was just a piece of who he was. He was an amazing man.”
Now five years after his loss, family members say they have their own special ways of keeping Paul’s memory alive. For Paul’s birthday on Sept. 12, the family went down to Huntington Beach (one of the actor’s favorite surf spots) and threw sunflowers in the ocean and told their favorite memory of their beloved son and brother. It’s become a yearly tradition for the family.
“I’ve gotten letters from people all over the world who said he made a difference in their lives,” said Cheryl. “That is such a blessing. He’s never forgotten.”
*With reporting by DANA ROSE FALCONE