HARRY Leslie Smith, as he lies in his hospital bed in Canada, must surely be thinking of his sister Marion.

In 1923, Marion died of tuberculosis in a workhouse infirmary in Barnsley, her mother helpless at her bedside and her three-year-old little brother about to embark on an extraordinary life.

Now it is Harry, a survivor of the Great Depression, an RAF veteran, a campaigner, author, husband and father, who lies gravely ill.

By his side is his son, John, and Harry, thanks to a health care system not unlike our NHS, is surrounded by all the technology and comfort a man of 95 might need to endure life-threatening illness.

Harry, a prolific Tweeter with a vast social media audience, let his community of followers know on Monday that something was awry with the words, "Bugger of a day, had a fall and now I am in hospital. It's nothing just low blood pressure, but signing off for the next few hours."

For Harry, life began at 90. Or, at least, life in the spotlight and that's quite another matter. Being invited to speak at the Labour party conference; addressing junior doctors who chanted his name; writing viral opinion pieces for broadsheet publications on the follies of our age and the great structures of modern society that we take for granted but must not.

Hours after the initial tweet, John took over the Twitter account. "This is Harry Leslie Smith's son, John," he wrote. "Harry is in A & E and not in a good way. He asked me to inform you in case things don't work out. I will keep you posted."

He has kept us posted. John has stood vigil by his father's side and the internet has stood vigil at one remove.

Harry's son has shared his blood pressure and oxygen counts, his treatments. His frailties, his murmurings and suppositions of his dreams. From concern about buying the nurses a box of Quality Street to criticism - Harry is an Englishman - of the quality of the brew on offer.

The despair of, "I get the feeling that in this hospital room, tonight, I am watching history die here: my own, Britain's and even Canada's."

The joy of, "They've allowed him a cuppa!"

Isn't that something, to begin life when mass communication came from learning Morse code and end up with your gravest moments being live tweeted to a worldwide audience. "For me," Harry has written previously, "Being able to navigate through the internet has made my old age a less lonely place."

And so his son, while live tweeting the intimate experience of his father's sick bed, has written of the internet keeping him pushing on through this dark time.

It feels that there are fewer and fewer opportunities to see the positive side of social media but here is one astounding example: the outpouring of support and love for Harry from multiple countries and many politicians, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

All ages too. In a time when young people - derided Millennials and despaired of Gen Z - are accused of being too profligate, too prudish, too entitled, too pathetic, Harry has always spoken with positivity and hope of young people being a bright future.

It is not an easy thing to watch, this outpouring of intimacy. It began the day after International Men's Day. Who knew? Every March, International Women's Day affords misogynists and male misery guts everywhere to snark, "When's International Men's Day then?"

"Every day of the year," women sigh back, in much the same tone my mum used when I would whine in the run up to Mothering Sunday about there being no annual Children's Day.

International Men's Day, which falls on November 19, has been around for the past 30 years but has failed to take off in the same way as International Women's Day, perhaps due to men having the self-awareness to realise the very notion might be perceived as a ruddy cheek or linked to men's rights activism, the muck-spraying of misogyny that damages all genders.

This year, almost by stealth, it has become a respectable celebrated event with men's mental health a key theme. Masculinity and femininity are both performances and how exhausting to be always performing. International Men's Day's message was to put aside toxic masculinity and open up to honest discussion of men's feelings.

Harry's openness - he has long spoken of his grindingly poor, loveless upbringing in Barnsley and the deaths of his wife and son Peter - and now his son John's openness are such an example of this.

How stark the change in men's emotional roles must be for Harry, over his 95 years. I chide myself for the discomfort I feel at seeing such raw vulnerability posted so publicly.

Harry, supported by John, pledged to use his twilight years to make a difference - to support the NHS, aid refugees and campaign against austerity. What if another legacy is a model of emotional openness and acceptance?

With all that wisdom gathered from experience, it would be worth minding his example.