Paul Walker’s mother, Cheryl, says on the morning of his death, he was in the best spirits 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,” says 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.
Now those closest to the deeply private actor are opening up about his life and legacy in a new documentary, I Am Paul Walker, premiering Aug. 11 on Paramount Network produced by Derik Murray of Network Entertainment and directed by Adrian Buitenhuis.
For more on Paul Walker’s life and legacy, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.
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 almost 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’s tradition is to go down to Huntington Beach (one of the actor’s favorite surf spots) and throw sunflowers in the ocean and tell their favorite memory of their beloved son and brother.
“I’ve gotten letters from people all over the world who said he made a difference in their lives,” says Cheryl. “That is such a blessing. He’s never forgotten.”
*With reporting by DANA ROSE FALCONE