Interview: Meet Nolan Adam of Sands of Victoria by Stephanie Deline

Life is a Story. Tell it Well. Sands of Victoria BC
Photo Attribution: 
Stephanie Deline

Managing Director Nolan Adam and the rest of the team at Sands Funeral Chapel take pride in providing a service that extends far beyond that of a typical funeral home. With their Natural Passage program, commitment to celebrating life, and insistence to treat their clients like friends and family, Sands has earned a well-deserved glowing reputation when it comes to caring for those who have lost a loved one, and providing the utmost respect for the lives that have passed on. Offering a full range of services, as well as Eco-friendly burial and cremation options, Sands provides a beautiful, peaceful environment to take sanctuary in. Always prioritizing their role in the community, Sands opens up their space to community groups and organizations for meetings and other occasions, free of charge. Bee Green is proud to feature this exceptional addition to our community.

How did you personally get started as a Funeral Director?

My grandfather started a funeral home in the 1970s, and upon his passing my father took over the business. Ever since I was 10 or 11, I was helping my dad out in the funeral home as much as possible.
The reason why I wanted to work in this profession is that I saw from a very early age the impact that my father's work had on others in what was often the most difficult time in their lives.  They were so grateful, and I knew that he was making a genuine difference in helping people through the loss of friends and loved ones.

What differences have you made here at Sands of Victoria?

When I first moved from Montreal to Victoria 6 months ago I saw that many of the people here were non-traditional and different, and that the traditional funeral home was not doing enough in this community.  The traditional service that we have been using for over 50 years just doesn't work anymore for some of the people in this community.  It became apparent that we needed more options. Much of the population here has moved from other places, and maybe traditions have faded because people don't have their roots set as deeply here.

We needed to find new ways of dealing with grief that may be more practical and fulfilling for those who have lost someone.
The first thing I brought forward is the Natural Passage program.  This program is environmentally responsible, and allows people to be more involved in the process and look after their loved ones, whether that be taking part in a ritual washing of the body, cleaning their nails, closing the eyes, or combing hair.

We provide the option for people to be as involved as they like; there are those who just wish to be involved in a small part of the process such as accompanying their loved one with the driver from their home or hospital, or simply brushing their loved one’s hair, and there are those who want to be involved in the entire process from beginning to end.

What is the process?

We make sure we bring the person is brought into our care as soon as possible. The next step is to meet with the family to make the primary arrangements and find out what their wishes are, whether it be the Natural Passage or something else. If a service is something they would like to proceed with, we would then schedule a time for a funeral for everyone to take part in. We also provide loved ones with peace of mind by offering to take care of a lot of the paperwork involved like canceling social insurance numbers, credit accounts, applying for death certificates, survivor’s benefits and really as much as is  legally possible to ease the burden for survivors. We try to make the process as easy as possible from beginning to end, from that first call to handing the loved ones a stack of papers a week after the funeral and saying everything has been looked after, you have nothing left to do.

Why do you think it is so important for family and loved ones to be engaged in the process?

Over the years, I think people have become more afraid of death and have stepped back.  I believe that part of the grieving process includes being involved in the final steps. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, but having no involvement at all can deprive loved ones from a sense of closure. Not everybody needs the traditional visuals to heal properly, but it can be helpful for some to take the steps to have proper closure and accept death.

How did the idea for Natural Passage come about?

There was one experience that I had with a gentleman that stuck with me.  His father had passed, and he wanted a cremation with no service.  We of course handled that with utmost care and respect; however, a few days after the ashes were collected, we saw that the son had invested in a large obituary for his father.  I felt extremely sad that I wasn't able to give him a way to celebrate his father's life, and the best way for him to do that was in an obituary. Not to say that this gentleman would not have chosen to still have the obituary, it was just apparent that the option for us to have done something more meaningful wasn't available at the time. 

That is where the idea for "Life is a Story, Tell it Well" was born.  You don't have to have a traditional chapel service to celebrate the life of a loved one; you can celebrate on a golf course, which we have done before, you can have a wine and cheese party or a high tea for those who would have loved that in life. For many, this type of celebration would suit the deceased much more than a traditional chapel service.

It sounds like what makes you stand out is your flexibility and willingness to customize according to your clients' needs.

You are exactly right. We can do anything - we can have a memorial at the park or beach. We are here to commemorate, memorialize and celebrate life, and not just focus on death.

You say Green is Gold - what does that mean?  What kind of eco-friendly products and burial options do you offer and why is that important to you?

More than anywhere else in Canada, I have noticed the necessity here in Victoria to be responsible in all aspects of life, environmentally and economically. The Natural Passage program was one of the first things we did to differentiate ourselves from more traditional funeral homes. Unlike many other eco products, our green products and services are not the most expensive options out there; in fact, they happen to be the most affordable on top of being environmentally responsible.

We have a wide variety of green options, everything from linen or silk shrouds to more traditional-type caskets without the harmful varnishes or stains. They are made with dowels, wooden hinges and cotton interiors as opposed to something that may be more harmful to the environment.

So you can still have a beautiful, intricate looking casket that is eco-friendly without compromising style?

Yes, exactly, and you can still have that traditional church service without compromising being green as well. You don't have to have the pine tray with the shroud inside the church - you can have that traditional type casket and still be environmentally responsible.

Why is it important for you to offer green options?

We are only here for a short period of time, and our footprint when we leave this earth should be as small as possible.  We don't inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.

What else is different and special about Sands?

We have a mandate to be part of the community.  We don't just come here from 9-5 and close the doors. A requirement for being part of the Sands family is to be very heavily involved in the community.  One example would be that just recently in October we had a pumpkin giveaway. We purchased 250 pumpkins from a local organic farmer to give away and opened our doors to anyone who wanted a pumpkin, whether that was a child who wanted to carve one or someone who wanted to make pumpkin soup.

At Christmas, we had our first Annual Toy Drive where we collected unopened gifts and donated all the presents to the Salvation Army for distribution.

What other community services do you offer?

We have a number of boardrooms that we allow non-profit or charity organizations to use free of charge.  We also have reception areas that we will let people use for Christmas parties or business gatherings.  We have a beautiful building here, and we only end up using it for certain periods of time. We wanted to use the space to help out community as much as possible. We have the Young Entrepreneur’s Society who meets here often, and the BC Victims of Homicide who have their seminars and counselling here as well as many other community organizations.

We also have two beautiful limousines that we use in partnership with Ballet Victoria to offer isolated seniors an opportunity to go to the ballet and ride to and from in the limousine free of charge.

What types of food do you offer?  Where is it sourced?

From our Wine and Cheese to our High Tea, to the traditional corner-cut sandwiches, everything is locally sourced to give back to support local suppliers. We use Stone's Throw Catering for our more traditional meals, Top Notch Catering for the High Tea and Morelli's Gourmet Cheeses for our wine and cheese. 

Is there anything else you really want people to know, in summary?

We are more than just the traditional funeral home, from the environmental approach, to the non-traditional type services that we offer, to the support and sustainability we offer here in Victoria, we are here to help.  We are caregivers, we are here to help through the entire process, we are here to help the community. We are here to celebrate life.

Sands Funeral Chapel
1803 Quadra Street | Victoria, BC  V8T 4B8 | (250) 388-5155


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